Plymouth mother falsely claimed £46,000 in benefits, court told
A MOTHER falsely claimed more than £46,000 in benefits by failing to declare she was living with a teacher, a court heard.
Care assistant Shiralee Wotton, aged 30, pocketed four types of payment for two years, Plymouth Crown Court was told.
But the mum-of-four escaped an immediate jail term after a judge heard she was paying back the money.
Recorder Paul Derbyshire told her: "I want you to stay in work, provide for your children and pay this money back over 10 years, if that is what it takes."
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He handed Wotton a 16-week prison sentence but suspended it for two years. She will remain under probation supervision for that period.
Wotton, of Ashford Crescent, Lipson, admitted two counts of dishonestly failing to notify the authorities of a change of circumstances affecting her benefit claims between March 2010 and March 2012.
She failed to say she was living with a working man as husband and wife.
Wotton also pleaded guilty to making a false representation to gain benefit in similar terms.
Sarah Vince, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said Wotton started claiming benefits in 2008 on the basis she was a single mother with four children.
But she said Plymouth City Council became aware in February last year that she was living with a teacher, who was bringing in undeclared income to the household.
Miss Vince said the partner had given his employer her address as his own.
She added a surveillance operation was started but Wotton in the end came forward after a neighbour gave her a tip-off.
Miss Vince said Wotton admitted she was living with the teacher, but at first denied he had moved in as far back as 2010.
She said Wotton had failed to tell the authorities of her change of circumstances, despite contacting them when it suited her – including to inform of a change of bank details.
The court heard Wotton pocketed a total of £46,036, including tax credits, housing benefit, income support and council tax credit.
Jason Beal, for Wotton, said she had paid back about £2,000 since she was charged and would carry on making repayments. He added it would take her a decade to clear the sum.