A BENEFITS cheat who falsely claimed more than £20,000 has been handed a 17-week suspended prison sentence.
Sarah Lucas, of Mickleton Close, Oakenshaw, was sentenced at Redditch Magistrates’ Court on May 13 after pleading guilty to dishonestly claiming £21,851.79.
The 41-year-old failed to declare the true extent of her savings and fraudulently received Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit.
The court heard how her lies were uncovered after an investigation by Redditch borough council as a result of a data match.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) were invited to work alongside the council to uncover the full extent of the offending.
Magistrates said it was a very serious offence with a considerable amount of money taken over a long time.
Lucas’s sentence was suspended for 12 months and she has to complete 100 hours of unpaid work as well as paying prosecution costs of £85.
A spokesman for Redditch borough council said: “Anybody making a claim for benefit is making a legal declaration that they have declared their true circumstances.
“This is very important and this case demonstrates the consequences of failing to do it.”
A DWP spokesman added benefit thieves are costing the taxpayer almost £1 billion per year.
“This money is intended to help those most in need not line the pockets of criminals.
“We will continue to tackle this problem at the frontline but also at the root by reforming the benefits system to make it less open to abuse,” he said.
To report a case of suspected benefit fraud visit www.redditchbc.gov.uk/fraud or call 01527 534011.