Hemswell woman swindled benefits

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A MOTHER-OF-THREE has been convicted of falsely claiming over £40,000 in benefits.

Lincoln Crown Court court heard how Daniella M Fletcher, formerly of Louisberg Road in Hemswell Cliff near Gainsborough, pleaded to guilty to falsely claiming over £41,432 in benefits – but not all of which was fraudulent.

The 28-year-old Fletcher had claimed the money in benefits since July 2004 when she was legitimately receiving it whilst filed as a single-person.

But in July 2006, she began living with a man whom she later married, but continued to claim as a single person.

In February 2009, the authorities conducted an investigation and found her marriage certificate and joint bank account.

She admitted her wrong-doing and pleaded guilty in July 2010.

In mitigation, Fletcher’s defence Ms Allison Summers said: “She’s 28-years-old with three children aged eight, five and three.”

“One has ADHD and the five-year-old is blind in one eye. This lady also has a number of long-standing health and medical problems. She has begun divorce proceedings from her husband.”

She continued: “Social services have said that these three children will go into care should she be given an immediate custodial sentence. She would have lost her home, lost her children and would be in a fragile emotional state with little support.”

“This was not an offence committed out of greed – she used the money to buy nappies and food. She has nothing.”

When sentencing Fletcher to a six-month sentence suspended for 18 months with a supervision requirement, Miss NK Shant QC said: “The public must know that this sort of offence that involves stealing from the public purse, but the message must also go out that justice must be done to the individual.”

“I take the view that this is a case that was not fraudulent from the outset.

Following the case, HM Revenue and Customs spokesperson Maddy Ratnett said: “The vast majority of tax credit claimants are honest and claim only what they are entitled to.”

“But those who think that they can beat the system and gain advantage over everyone else without consideration or second thought should be worried.”

She added: “We will not hesitate to find and prosecute those who flout the law. I urge anyone who has information on this type of fraudulent activity to call the National Benefit Fraud Hotline on 0800 854 440.”