£116k benefit cheat spared jail

Crown Court
Crown Court

A benefit cheat who pocketed over £116,000 during a long running fraud has been spared jail.

Christine Pasco claimed income support, employment support allowance, housing benefit and council tax relief on the basis she was a single mum with health problems.

But Newcastle Crown Court heard the 53-year-old had her husband, who was employed, living with her throughout the scam, between 1996 and 2015.

Pasco, of Prestbury Road, Sunderland, admitted benefit fraud amounting to a total of £116,182.

To date, she has paid £350 back.

Mr Recorder Singh said her conduct was "very serious offending" and added: "Very large sums of money were involved.

"The view I had taken, before I came into court, was this is so serious that it passed the custody threshold.

"I remain of that same view."

The judge said Pasco's previous positive character, her medical issues and lack of risk of re-offending meant her jail term could be suspended.

Pasco was sentenced to two years, suspended for two years, with supervision.

The judge told her: "You are a low risk of re-offending and will not trouble the courts again."

Vic Laffey, defending, said Pasco struggled to bring up her four children without financial help.

Mr Laffey said: "She was getting very little, if any, support from her husband."

The court heard Pasco lives completely separately, but in the same house as her husband.

Mr Laffey added: "They have their own rooms, own living room, no exchanges between them at all except he contributes to the outgoings of the property."

The court heard Pasco no longer claims any benefits and survives financially through the kindness of her daughter, who is also helping pay back the cash.

Mr Laffey said Pasco has been "terrified" by the court process and added: "Her domestic situation is horrendous."