A WOMAN who admitted dishonestly claiming more than £28,000 in benefits has been given a suspended prison sentence after appearing in court.
Julie Andrea Sinclair, of Station Road, Seaham, pleaded guilty to four offences of claiming council tax and housing benefits along with income support to which she was not entitled between 2005 and 2009.
She also admitted two charges of providing false documents in relation to her claims and two charges of failing to notify the authorities of changes in her circumstances.
The 32-year-old appeared at Durham Crown Court, where she was sentenced to 10 months imprisonment, suspended for two years and received a 12-month supervision order.
The court heard Sinclair had stated that she was a single parent in order to claim benefits and that she had failed to notify Durham County Council and the Department for Work and Pensions that she had a partner who was providing her with financial support.
Sinclair received an overpayment of income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit totalling £28,366 between February 2005 and May 2009.
Judge Christopher Prince took into account the defendant’s early guilty plea in sentencing her.
Ian Ferguson, revenues and benefits manager for Durham County Council, which brought the prosecution jointly with the Department for Work and Pensions, warned other cheats they would be brought before the courts.
“Court proceedings like these are always a last resort, but it demonstrates how the council takes benefit fraud very seriously,” he said.
“It is important that the public know we will take action.
“Housing benefit fraudsters cost taxpayers significant amounts of money every year and we will continue to work with partners to deal with these issues.”