Sunderland benefits fraudster claimed £47,000 she was not entitled to during a three-year swindle

A Sunderland benefits swindler took £47,000 in payments she was not entitled to during a three-year fraud, a court heard.

Friday, 7th February 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Sunday, 9th February 2020, 1:39 am

Mum-of-two Stephanie Metcalfe, 29, of Falkland Road, Ford Estate, pocketing around £12,500 in housing benefit and £34,000 in tax credits before being rumbled.

She pleaded guilty to three fraud charges and could be jailed after her case was sent to Newcastle Crown Court for sentencing next month.

South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court heard her claim began legitimately but her actions turned criminal when she failed to declare her partner Scott James had moved in.

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South Tyneside Law Courts.

Prosecutor Paul Anderson said: “In a nutshell, she claimed benefits to which she wasn’t entitled.

“She was saying to the authorities that she was a lone parent but in fact there’s an abundance of evidence that there was someone else with her in a number of addresses in the Sunderland area.

“It would appear that housing benefit has been paid from a period from February 2016 to February 2019. Tax credits are to the tune of £34,000. You are talking some £47,000.

“Even when in interview she won’t accept the situation. You have a fraud over a sustained period of time. Although there was a legitimate claim at the outset, it soon becomes a fraudulent claim.”

Angus Westgarth, defending, said: “She has no previous convictions. She has children aged six and seven. The claim started out as a legitimate claim, as so many of these things do.

“There seems to be an attempted reconciliation. He’s had problems with alcohol, and she has difficulties dealing with his behaviour.

“She is absolutely petrified of the consequences. She lied in interview. There were many periods when he wasn’t living with her, but she accepts that he used her address.

“She would accommodate him because she was sympathetic and a soft touch. She finds herself in the situation where she may lose her liberty.”

Metcalfe pleaded guilty to three charges of dishonestly failing to disclose information to make a gain, two of which are between January 27, 2016 and February 5, 2019, and one between February 1, 2016 and February 10, 2019.