A DECEITFUL mum carried out a £55,000 tax credits con while working as a secretary in the Government department she defrauded.
Laura Miskell lied about her income to the Customs & Revenue - who actually paid her wages - to increase the amount of tax credits she would get.
During the seven year fraud the 43-year-old, who worked at Waterview Park in Washington, failed to declare her partner was living with her.
Her deception was uncovered by a random computer check and her bosses put her under surveillance, which proved she did not live alone.
Between 2005 and 2012 she was paid £54,722 she was not entitled to.
Prosecutor Kevin Wardlaw told the Newcastle Crown Court: “This was, infact, a long term benefit fraud.
“At the time of the commission she was employed by the tax credit office, who she subsequently defrauded.
“She was personal secretary to a senior member of staff.
“She had no contact with the public and was not involved in processing claims.
“Her relationship with a long-term partner came to an end in 2005, however, they reconciled after three months and she failed to declare this.
“Throughout the period of 2005 to the detection of the offences she under-declared her income in order to increase the amount of tax credits she was to be paid.”
Miskell, of The Terraces, Washington, admitted 10 charges of fraudulent activity.
She has since resigned from her post.
Judge Simon Hickey told her: “You were employed by the very tax credit office you were obtaining the monies through.”
The judge said Miskell deserved to go to jail but said she could be spared for the sake of her children and sentenced her to 10 months behind bars, suspended for 12 months, with 200 hours unpaid work.
Judge Hickey told her: “You richly deserve to go to prison but your children do not deserve to be deprived of a mother. “
Christopher Morrison, defending, said Miskell helps out at a church, is of positive character and is “highly remorseful and ashamed of her actions”, which were motivated by debt and mounting financial pressures.
Mr Morrison said: “It is not suggested in any way she abused her position of employment within Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in order to effect this deception, continue this deception or conceal this deception.
Joff Parsons, Head of Internal Governance Criminal, HMRC said: “Laura Miskell deliberately abused a system designed to provide financial help to the most vulnerable people in our society.
“HMRC is committed to the highest level of integrity and we take the strongest possible action against the tiny minority who let us all down by falling short of those standards. ”