Rushden woman fraudulently claimed more than £90,000 benefits

Northampton Crown Court

Northampton Crown Court

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A woman who fraudulently claimed more than £90,000 in benefits over five years has been given a 12-month suspended jail sentence.

Tracey Neal, 40, of The Hedges, Rushden, appeared at Northampton Crown Court on Monday after admitting falsely claiming income support, housing and council tax benefit and child tax credits from April 2008 to October 2013.

The court heard that Neal lost her job five years ago and then made a benefits claim stating that she lived alone with her two children.

But, Duncan Craig, prosecuting, said Neal was in fact living with her husband so her claim was “fraudulent from the outset”.

In total, Neal falsely claimed £12,062 in income support, £27,763 in housing and council tax benefit and £50,217 in child tax credits.

Julian Hunt, mitigating, said Neal had made the “stupid decision” to contact the benefits office after she lost her job.

Mr Hunt said Neal “did not have and easy life” or a “lavish lifestyle” and had two disabled teenage children, one of whom required full-time care.

He said Neal had been “too scared” to tell the authorities what she had done.

Mr Hunt said: “She is someone who has learned a very difficult lesson from these court proceedings.”

The court heard Neal was paying back the money and had so far reimbursed the Department of Work and Pensions £8,000.

Recorder Marcus Tregilas-Davey, sentencing, said: “You knew what you were doing was wrong and you persisted with it.”

Judge Tregilas-Davey sentenced Neal to 12 months in custody, suspended for two years. She must complete 150 hours of unpaid work.