Suspended jail term for Chippenham woman in £30k benefits fraud
Updated 11:52am Monday 17th February 2014 in News
A benefits cheat told investigators a shaggy dog story when they asked her what payments into her bank account were.
Georgina Bennett, 42, claimed benefits being paid to her from her time in the Channel Islands were really donations for her canine charity.
And when it was put to Bennett that GSSA on her bank statements stood for Guernsey Social Security Authority she admitted the truth.
Now after hearing she was type one diabetic and was in need of a pancreas transplant a judge decided not to send her to jail for plundering £30,000 she was not entitled to.
Marcus Davey, prosecuting, told Swindon Crown Court that Bennett came to the mainland for treatment for her ailments in 2007.
At the time she was claiming the equivalent of incapacity benefit in Guernsey and she kept receiving the money after arriving.
But at the same time she made a claim for income support as well as housing and council tax benefits at her new home.
During the three years and 11 months, when she also ran a cleaning business, she received £30,445.73p she wasn't entitled to.
Mr Davey said: "In her first interview, the benefits that were coming from Guernsey, she said were something else, she lied about that.
"What appeared in the bank account was GSSA. When asked what was GSSA she did not say it was incapacity benefits from Guernsey.
"She said it was donations of money she was receiving from benefactors she didn't name for work she had done in relation to canines. She did lie in first interview."
Bennett, of Market Place, Chippenham, pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud.
Mike Pulsford, defending, said as well as having to inject herself a number of times a day because of her diabetes she also had a serious pancreatic disorder.
He said it meant she was on the list for a transplant and could get a call requiring her to be ready for surgery with just six hours' notice.
"She is petrified were she to be sent to prison today the prison service, with the best will in the world, would not be able to organise a response to an organ being available in that short order," he said.
"There is also her medication, she has a whole box of medication with her."
He said she also had mental health problems after troubled relationships and has also been made bankrupt in 2008.
Mr Pulsford said she now runs a Rottweiler rehoming charity which just involves her putting people with dogs in contact with others who want them over the phone.
Judge Tim Mousley QC said: "This was long term dishonesty on your part on a significant scale.
"It is said there was no rational explanation for it. I don't agree with that, I take the view you had in mind your own personal financial gain.
"I accept you had mental health problems at the point when you started claiming these sums.
"I can't disregard the fact that during that time you were managing a business while all this was going on so it suggests your mental health problems weren't as bad.
"Anybody who dishonestly claims benefits in this way are committing a serious offence. This is, after all, taxpayers' money.
"I have read what is said of the effect of custody upon you in the reports. That enables me to suspend the prison sentence I am going to impose upon you."
He imposed an eight-month jail term suspended for two years and told her she would be under supervision for a year.