Leeds mum claimed £60,000 benefits while working

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A mum who conned the taxpayer out of almost £60,000 in a 15-year benefits scam has avoided jail.

Vanessa Benjamin, 44, fraudulently claimed income support, housing and council tax benefit while working at a supermarket.

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Leeds Crown Court heard how Benjamin falsely claimed the benefits between 1992 and 2007, while working for Morrisons.

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She initially made legitimate claims for income support in 1991 – but from 1992 onward, she regularly made dishonest statements about being unemployed.

On each Giro cheque she received she declared that she was unemployed, the court heard.

From 1995, she began making false claims for housing and council tax benefit, again declaring she was not in employment.

The court heard that throughout the period she worked regular hours for

the supermarket, earning between 770 and 1,200 a month.

The total loss to the taxpayer was 57,591. It meant she was illegally

claiming around 4,000 a year, or between 60 to 80 per week.

When the offences came to light, Benjamin told investigators from the Department for Work and Pensions that she had initially made false claims to pay off credit card debts and got "carried away".

Benjamin, of Elford Place, Harehills, Leeds, pleaded guilty to 11 charges of benefit fraud.

Stephen Welford, mitigating, said Benjamin accepted responsibility for her actions and pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.

He said she felt genuine shame and remorse for what she had done. Since admitting the offences, she had been taking steps to address her problems rather than "burying her head in the sand."

Recorder Duncan Smith gave Benjamin a 36-week prison sentence, suspended for two years.

She was also given 200 hours of unpaid work and made the subject of a six-month supervision order.

Mr Smith did not make any financial order as the DWP were planning to take their own steps to recover the cash.

He said: "60 to 80 per week benefit to which you were not entitled does not sound a great deal of money but when one looks at a 15-year fraud of nearly 60,000 it sounds somewhat different."

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