A mum-of-four who banked illegally-claimed benefits in an ISA was caught after she spent £29,000 of it on her son’s wedding, a court heard.
A court heard Syeda Khatun, 59, received income support and housing and council tax benefits totalling £32,373 over a five year period before her deception came to light.
Khatun was given a suspended sentence yesterday after her lawyer told Leeds Crown Court how she had spent many years living a “frugal lifestyle” during which she had been able to bank her benefits.
Mark Brooks, prosecuting, told the court that the Khatun had initially made legitimate benefit claims from 1996 following the death of her husband as she was a lone parent, was not in employment and had no savings.
The offending began in 2008 when she failed to notify the Department of Work and Pensions and Leeds City Council that she had capital which meant she was no longer entitled to claim benefits.
Khatun was interviewed in March 2014 and confronted with evidence of a ‘gold’ ISA account worth £29,226.86p.
Mr Brooks said that at the end of the interview Khatun asked for forgiveness over her “mistake.”
Khatun, of Savile Drive, Chapeltown, Leeds, pleaded guilty to two offences of failing to notify a change in circumstances
Ben Thomas, mitigating, said Khatun accepted that she had behaved dishonestly and was ashamed of her behaviour.
He said: “This was not a case where it was to fund a lavish lifestyle. She was living a frugal lifestyle. She was entitled to benefits and she was saving it.
“If she had spent it there would not have been a problem.”
Mr Thomas said Khatun, who appeared in court in a wheelchair and had the help of a Bengali interpreter, was now in receipt of disability living allowance which she was using to repay the money she had claimed illegally.
A pre-sentence report described how the huge sum spent on her son’s wedding was “culturally the norm.”
Mr Thomas added: “In effect it was a misguided approach that she was taking.
“She was hoping to give her sons a good start in life.
“Clearly the benefits system is not designed so people can pass on a large sum of money to their children.”
Khatun was given a 12 month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months.
Recorder Nigel Sangster, QC, said: “The unusual part of the case is had you spent those benefits you would not have been here.
“But because you saved the money up and failed to declare it you are here.”