Leeds benefits cheat claimed £122,000

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A BENEFITS cheat who fleeced the taxpayer out of £122,000 during an 11-year deception has been jailed.

Margaret McLauchlan was given an 18-month sentence after a court heard she lied for over a decade in order to claim income support, employment support and housing benefit.

Leeds Crown Court was told McLauchlan, 51, claimed to be single and unemployed throughout the period of offending despite living with a partner who had a job.

Mark McKone, prosecuting, said the offending came to light in 2014 when an investigation revealed McLauchlan’s partner held three bank accounts which were all linked to her home address.

He had also taken out a Sky television subscription using McLauchlan’s address.

McLauchlan was interviewed by officials from the Department of Work and Pensions and denied any offending.

She claimed her partner did not live with her but visited her home twice a day and would stay with her at weekends.

She also claimed she did not know where he lived.

In a second interview she claimed he lived with her but they were not in a relationship.

McLauchlan, of Snowden Vale, Bramley, Leeds, pleaded guilty to fraud and two offences of failing to notify a change in circumstances on the day she was due to stand trial.

Mr McKone said McLauchlan illegally claimed a total amount of £122,784.

Matthew Harding, mitigating, said McLauchlan had no previous convictions and would struggle to cope with a custodial sentence as she had physical and mental health problems.

The barrister said his client had undergone an operation to control her obesity as she had weighed 27 stone.

Mr Harding added that McLauchlan had been abusing alcohol throughout much of the period of offending.

Mr Harding said: “She is not somebody who appears to be an habitual criminal in her behaviour. She was drinking to excess.”

Judge James Spencer, QC, replied: “Because of the amount of money she was defrauding, she could afford it!”

Jailing McLauchlan, the judge said: “Over many years you were defrauding the state. The total involved over £122,000 that incorporated in it fraudulent lies by you about your status at home. The degree of dishonesty is indeed significant.”

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