Suspended sentence over 15-year benefit fraud

A WOMAN claimed benefits for 15 years to which she was not entitled.

By the time Vanessa Benjamin's dishonesty was discovered she had been overpaid 57,591 in income support, council tax and housing benefit, Leeds Crown Court heard yesterday.

She had started claiming income support legitimately in 1991 but failed to notify a change in her circumstances when she got a job working at a Wm Morrisons supermarket.

She continued to say she was unemployed and in 1995 began claiming council tax and housing benefit as well.

Over the years her hours varied and she had a monthly income from her job of 770 to 1200.

When she was investigated by the Department of Work and Pensions she said she had not disclosed her job to start with because she was paying off credit card debts and found she could not stop.

Stephen Welford, for Benjamin, said she felt genuine remorse and shame not only for herself but her family. There was no evidence of her living the high life and she had waited a year to know her fate.

Benjamin, 44 of Elford Place East, Harehills, Leeds admitted 11 offences of benefit fraud and was sentenced to 36 weeks in prison suspended for two years with six months supervision and 200 hours unpaid work.