‘Confused’ Italian-African woman wins appeal over benefit fraud conviction

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A ‘CONFUSED’ woman from Sunderland, who was put behind bars for benefit fraud, was today set free by top judges on appeal.

Vitorio Silvana Condomiti, 39, of Norfolk Street, was jailed for 36 weeks for fraudulently claiming benefits at Newcastle Crown Court in February.

But judges at London’s Criminal Appeal today slashed the term to two months and two weeks - the time she has already spent behind bars.

She can now go back to Eritrea and be with her son, daughter and mother, the court was told.

Condomiti pleaded guilty on the basis that she had pretended to be Eritrean, when in fact she was an Italian citizen.

But her lawyers told the Appeal Court that she in fact holds dual Eritrean and Italian nationality.

They said confusion and language problems were at the heart of her case.

Condomiti’s barrister, Jamie Adams, said: “There is something not quite right about her mental well-being.

“She had said she hit her head when she was in Italy and was in hospital for two weeks.”

Mr Justice Green told the court how, in March 2010, using the surname ‘Simon’, Condomiti claimed asylum.

Between March 2 and August 16 that year, she claimed to be destitute and received benefits of £4,751.22.

The judge said there was ‘no reason to doubt’ that Condomiti does have dual nationality. However, there was no mention of that when she was sentenced.

The benefits she would have been entitled to as an Italian were not taken into account, nor her lack of previous convictions or guilty plea.

Mr Justice Green, sitting with Lady Justice Rafferty and Mr Justice Edis, said: “In our view the judge erred.

“We allow the appeal; we quash the sentence; we substitute for it a sentence of two months and two weeks.

“She is to be released forthwith from custody.”