A BENEFIT cheat mum was paid more than £60,000 by falsely claiming she was a single parent.
Joanne Wilton claimed to be living alone with her children when she was actually sharing her home with her partner, who was working.
As a result, the 32-year-old, of East Vines, in the East End, was paid income support and housing benefit she was not entitled to between November 2001 and December 2009.
Prosecutor Susan Hirst told Newcastle Crown Court: “The overpayment was £60,127.21.”
Miss Hirst said prosecutors accept Wilton’s partner was not living with her or contributing to the household for the entire eight years but he was for long spells throughout that period.
The fraudster has so far repaid £450 of income support and £620 of the housing benefit.
Judge John Evans sentenced Wilton to 27 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, and ordered her to do 225 hours of unpaid work.
The court heard Wilton is now officially living with her partner and they are not claiming any benefits.
The judge said the prison sentence could be suspended because of Wilton’s guilty plea, previous good character and the fact two years had passed since she was arrested.
He told her: “Although you could not complain at all if I took the view you had to go to custody, I suspect in this case little public good would be achieved by it, save reflecting public disquiet to people who engage in this kind of fraud.”
Bob Spragg, defending, said there were times during the fraud when Wilton and her partner had actually broken up.
He added: “It is not a case, by any stretch of the imagination, where it can be said she has been living the high life in any way at all.
“Her and her family have struggled financially.”
Wilton had admitted benefit fraud charges at an earlier hearing.