A BENEFIT fraudster who lied about being a single parent claimed more than £30,000 over a 20-year period, a court heard.
Sharon Jowett, 45, was given a suspended prison sentence after pleading guilty to five offences of fraud at Leeds Crown Court.
Louise Wilkinson, prosecuting, said Jowett, of Broom Terrace, Belle Isle, Leeds, made dishonest claims for housing, council tax and income support benefits between 1993 and 2013.
The court heard the mother-of-one told authorities she was a single parent despite living with a partner throughout much of the period of offending.
She made a total of 12 false claims about her status in order to obtain benefits totalling £32,738.
Jowett was interviewed when the offending came to light and initially denied any wrongdoing.
She claimed her partner was not living with her as he was homeless and she only allowed him to use her address to receive mail. She later pleaded guilty to the offences.
The court heard Jowett had so far paid back around £1,000 of the money she illegally claimed, at a rate of £40 per week.
Adam Birkby, mitigating, said Jowett had no other convictions. He said: “She has offered a full and frank apology for her behaviour.
“Although at the time the money involved was only a relatively small amount on a weekly basis, when they were totalled up the defendant herself was flabbergasted.
“She simply can’t imagine that amount of money.”
Mr Birkby said Jowett and her partner had now agreed on a repayment plan to return the money. He said it is expected to take them around 18 years to repay it.
Mr Birkby urged Recorder Simon Kealey to consider imposing a community punishment so Jowett could continue to work and pay off the money.
Jowett was given a 12 month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months.
She was also made the subject of a 12 month supervision requirement and a four month curfew, between the hours of 9pm and 7am.