A MOTHER of two who got almost £47,000 of taxpayers' cash in a six-year benefits scam, has been jailed for 24 weeks.
Burnley Crown Court heard how Rachael Brown, 24, claimed income support, housing benefits and council tax benefits as a single woman, but was living with her then partner Christopher Tomlinson, who worked as an office manager.
Brown was caught after the Department for Work and Pensions carried out surveillance outside her home and saw Mr Tomlinson taking the children to school.
His vehicle was registered at the defendant's address.
Brown, of Fern Lea Street, Waterfoot, admitted three counts of dishonestly falling to notify a change in circumstances to the DWP and Rossendale Borough Council, between May 2005 and February last year.
Martin Reid, prosecuting, said Brown claimed income support from September 2004, on the basis she was single and pregnant.
She went on to give birth to two children and between May 2005 and last January, she lived with Mr Tomlinson as husband and wife.
Her claim was legitimate for about eight months.
Mr Tomlinson said in a witness statement he had lived with Brown for six years. The defendant was interviewed and owned up.
She had obtained £46,509.92 she wasn't entitled to.
Brown had now repaid just over £700 from the benefits she was now receiving. She had no previous convictions.
Bob Elias, for Brown, said Mr Tomlinson had disappeared, leaving her to face the music. She had no history of offending, had finished with him, although he still saw the children.
The barrister said although the offences crossed the custody threshold, the defendant had pleaded guilty, had no history of offending and had all the responsibilities of motherhood. Brown could be given a suspended prison term.
Sentencing, Judge Beverley Lunt told Brown she had obtained money which others, who were in genuine need, should have had.
The judge said the defendant knew she should have told the DWP she was living with someone.
She continued :"You didn't just ignore the matter, you made a decision not to tell them because you knew your benefits would be stopped, or at the very least reduced."
Judge Lunt went on : "For six years you were stealing taxpayers' money. You are still in receipt of four different types of state benefits. You still get taxpayers' money."
The judge added she could not suspend the sentence.
She said:" It sends out entirely the wrong message and will not deter others and punish you."