Five men who stole more than £80,000 from the Department of Work and Pensions in an "insider" benefits fraud have received a total of more than nine years in prison.

The men created false payments and invented fictitious children as part of the scam, with one victim taking his own life after the fraud.

Preston Crown Court heard Hamid Munshi, 31, of Foxhouse Street, Blackburn, was employed by the DWP from April 30 to December 11, 2018.

Munshi pleaded guilty to committing fraud when occupying a position, namely an administrative officer employed by the DWP, when he diverted genuine Employment Support Allowance customer payments and created false payments for himself.

He also dishonestly accessed the DWP employment support allowance systems on 69 occasions.

Munshi made false statements to obtain benefits and conceal criminal property, namely diverting ESA payments by or on behalf of four other defendants, Yasin Patel, Saajid Patel and Jibran Kalokhe and Arshad Adams.

Whilst Munshi was considered the 'leader' of the operation, having worked at DWP for the entire time of the fraud, Saajid Patel, 29, of Oswald Street, Blackburn, and Yasin Patel, 32, of Earl Street, Blackburn, had also worked at DWP for a shorter period of time.

They both pleaded guilty to dishonestly making a false statement to claim benefits for housing costs and fictitious children.

The court also heard text messages between the defendants suggested they were in it 'for the long game' and had plans to continue the fraud.

One of the victims of fraud, Ian Watts, died by suicide after the incident took place.

A victim personal statement from his mother, Alice Watts, told the court she believes his suicide was directly associated with his money struggles partly derived from the fraud.

Jibran Kalokhe, 30, of Woodlands Close, Blackburn, pleaded guilty to concealing criminal property, namely ESA payments, for the benefit of Munshi, and the Patels.

The court heard Arshad Adams had admitted concealing criminal property, namely ESA payments, for the benefit of the defendants but for a much shorter period.

Mitigating for Munshi, Chudi Grant told the court his client understood a custodial sentence was imminent, but said his client was trying to get his crippling repayments from gambling debts under control as a reasoning for the fraud.

Judge Heather Lloyd was also told in mitigation how it was Saajid Patel's first offence, and that Yasin Patel had been the first to confess to the fraud.

Leader of the operation Hamid Munshi was jailed for five years; Yasin Patel was jailed for three years, Jibran Kalokhe was jailed for eight months, Arshad Adams received 24 weeks in prison, and Saajid Patel was handed a two year sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 200 hours unpaid work.