A COUPLE who scooped a quarter of a million pounds on the National Lottery swindled more than £42,000 in benefits.
Alfred Wells, 64, and his partner Patricia Marshall, 55, claimed pension credit, housing benefit and council tax benefit – despite having substantial savings stashed away in the bank.
Wells won £250,000 on the lottery in 2008 and also received a lump sum of £38,000 when he retired from his job at South Tyneside Council.
However, the couple, from Owen Drive, West Boldon, claimed they only had between £700 and £800 of savings to their name, in order to claim more than £42,000 in benefits between 2008 and 2013.
Newcastle Crown Court was told they actually had £171,000 of savings in their bank.
When they were arrested and interviewed last August, Wells said: “All I am saying is hands up. I have been caught.
“I have been an idiot, a fraudster, whatever you are going to call it.”
The court was told the couple wrongly claimed £41,638 in pension credit, housing benefit and council tax between July 2009 and May 2013.
Marshall also claimed £591 housing benefit and council tax benefit between September 2008 and December 2008, claiming she was living as a single person while she was residing with Wells.
Lee Fish, prosecuting, said: “Alfred Wells claimed pension credit for both himself and his partner on the basis they were both over 60, had no real income and they had savings below the allowable limit.
“As a result of that claim he was also able to claim housing benefit and council tax benefit.
“The claim was made by Mr Wells, however, Patricia Marshall participated in the telephone call which give rise to the claim for benefit. Therefore, these claims were effectively made for both of their benefits.
“They declared they only had £700 to £800 worth of savings. They had £171,000 at there disposal.”
“Both defendants were interviewed on August 1 last year and in interview, accepted that they had made these applications for benefits out of sheer greed.”
Wells pleaded guilty to two counts of benefit fraud and Marshall pleaded guilty to three counts of benefit fraud.
Jonathan Cousins, defending, told the court how Wells was in remission after being diagnosed with throat cancer in 2010.
Mr Cousins said: “Mr Wells rues the day he won the lottery, it has brought him a number of problems.
“He has never claimed any benefit whatsoever until he won the lottery, that is also the case for Miss Marshall.
“When he won the money he gave a significant proportion of it to charity, a significant proportion of it to his family and invested a large amount of it.
“He lived off the remainder. They both lived together and they had no other money.
“What they both did was claim benefits and they both deeply regret that.”
Mr Cousins added that the money has since been repaid.
Both Wells and Marshall have no previous convictions.
Judge Debbie Sherwin sentenced the pair to eight months imprisonment, suspended for two years.
They were also each given 100 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay £170 of prosecution costs.