A BENEFIT cheat who swindled more than £23,000 over a 10-year period has been spared jail.
Suzanne Waite started claiming Carer’s Allowance for looking after her parents in 2002, on the basis she had no other income.
But Sunderland Magistrates’ Court heard that Waite started working as a self-employed taxi driver in 2004.
The court heard the 51-year-old looked after her elderly parents, who lived in separate houses, while holding down a job taking disabled children to school in her taxi.
She didn’t tell the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) about her extra income and pleaded guilty to failing to notify the DWP of a change in circumstances and making false statement to obtain benefits. Stan Sudsworth, prosecuting, said the fraud went on until July 2014, but the money she earned as a driver fluctuated and she would have been entitled to some of the Caring Allowance she was claming had she made the authorities aware.
Lisa Callum, defending, said Waite, of Townsend Road in Thorney Close, previously had a low-income job while claiming and believed she was still earning under the threshold which would affect her benefits.
She ssaid: “She entered a guilty plea at the first opportunity and is paying the money back as best she can.
“During the investigation and in taking instructions, she has shown considerable remorse for this.”
Probation officer Ian Richardson assessed Waite and said she had since given up driving a taxi.
He said: “She tells me it was an omission rather than wilfulness on her part, but she does accept that she should have made the authority aware of her income from her taxi duties.
“She has no sympathy whatsoever for anyone who engages in benefit fraud.”
Chairman of the bench Thomas Eastick ordered Waite serve a 12-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months and carry out 60 hours of unpaid work.
She must also pay £85 court costs and a £80 victim surcharge.