Jade Quance was given two 6 month prison sentences, suspended for 2 years, after falsely claiming more than £34,000 in benefits over the last 4 years. She must also repay the money and pay £1,195 costs and an £80 victim surcharge.
Quance, 25, formerly of Greenock Crescent in Wolverhampton and now of Rooker Crescent, formerly admitted dishonesty at Wolverhampton Magistrates Court. She had told the council that she was a lone parent, but for the last 4 years had been living with her partner and the father of her children, who was working full time.
During this period, she fraudulently claimed £16,173 in housing benefit, just over £3,500 in council tax benefit and £14,637.77 in Income Support.
The prosecution was brought by Wolverhampton City Council and the Department for Work and Pensions following an anonymous tip off.
Investigators uncovered the fraud through surveillance, an investigation into the financial links between the pair and by looking into social media postings made by Quance.
Following her sentencing on Friday (2 May, 2014), Wolverhampton City Council's Fraud Manager Mark James said: "We are pleased with the sentence which has been handed down today which we believe recognises the severity of the fraud which was committed in this case.
"This sends out a strong message that the city council operates a zero tolerance policy on fraud, corruption and bribery and takes seriously all allegations of fraudulent activity made to us.
"We won't hesitate to take action if we suspect fraud has been committed against the council, and therefore taxpayers, and we will make every effort to recover all monies stolen from the council, either through the courts, by making deductions from ongoing benefit and the use of bailiffs as and when necessary."
The city council has carried out more than 520 investigations into suspected benefit fraud in the last 12 months, many in conjunction with the Department for Work and Pensions. Fraud was found in 175 cases, resulting in 53 prosecutions, 6 cautions and 18 administrative penalties, where the accused accepts a 50% fine on top of the overpayment in order to avoid court proceedings and a criminal record.
It was found that some £581,000 in benefits was paid out as a result of fraudulent claims during this period - and action is being taken to recover this.
Fraud can take many forms, including benefit fraud, false grant applications, fraudulent claims for social care support and fraud against schools.
In one particularly high profile case, a man who had no right to reside in the UK was jailed for 18 months after fraudulently claiming more than £50,000 in benefits.
The council worked with the organised fraud team at the Department for Work and Pensions and discovered that Chido Vincent, of Essington Way, East Park, bought forged documents in order to stay in the UK and claim benefits.
The 47 year old Nigerian national, who should have returned to Africa when his short term visa expired in 2007, was found guilty in March 2014 of fraudulently obtaining £12,088.25 in housing benefit, £1,758.80 in council tax benefit and £36,842.95 in Department for Work and Pensions benefits.
Mark added: "Fraud is estimated to cost local government £2.1 billion a year and the message from Wolverhampton City Council is clear - we will not allow people to commit fraud against the council, and we will work tirelessly to bring perpetrators to book."
Anyone who suspects someone of committing benefit fraud is asked to please contact Wolverhampton City Council's Fraud Team in confidence by calling 0800 408 0441, e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or writing to: Corporate Fraud Team, Wolverhampton City Council, Civic Centre, St Peter's Square, Wolverhampton WV1 1RL.
- released: Tuesday 6 May, 2014