10:00am Friday 24th February 2012
By Wendy Barlow
A £41,600 benefits cheat was working for the Department for Work and Pensions whilst taxpayers' cash was going into her bank account, a court heard.
Mother-of-two Wendy Morton, 48, had split from her husband Nicholas after he had a road accident and became ill.
She later moved back into the family home, but her husband continued to claim income support and council tax benefit, the authorities were not notified and the money came in for another four years.
Morton claimed she and her husband were still separated, were not a couple and she was his carer and not his wife, Burnley Crown Court was told.
The defendant, who was sacked from her position as a pensions worker when the fraud came to light and is now jobless, admitted two counts of causing or allowing Mr Morton to fail to give prompt notification of a change in circumstances, between April 2007 and May 2011. She had no previous convictions.
Morton, who lived at Ashworth Street, Baxenden, at the time of the offences, was given three months in jail, suspended for 18 months,with a four week, 9 pm to 6am curfew. She will face a proceeds of crime hearing at a later date.
The court had heard Mr Morton claimed the benefits legitimately after he and his wife separated. The two children were living with him.
The defendant moved back in in April 2007 and the benefits continued to be claimed. Income support to the tune of just under £40,000 was paid into an account in Morton's name and almost £2,500 in council tax benefits, from Hyndburn Borough Council, was also received.
The court heard Mr Morton had not faced prosecution because he had had a breakdown, and was said to be "very ill”.
When Morton was interviewed under caution by the DWP, she was fully co-operative and made admissions.
The pair had sold the home they shared at the time and had now moved into another property together in Kirkstone Drive, Cleveleys.
Morton was said to look after her husband full-time and was now in receipt of carer's allowance.
Daniel Prowse, for Morton, said she had lost her good name, her employment and the case would be reported in the press. Custody would significantly punish her husband as well.
Sentencing, Judge Jonathan Gibson told the defendant: "You know had the change in circumstances been known, you wouldn't have been entitled to these benefits."
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