Investigators who rumbled a benefits cheat’s £130,000 swindle have described it as the biggest fraud of its kind they’ve ever uncovered.
Marie Lyon, 50, scammed a staggering £133,000 in income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit between February 2002 and November 2012 by claiming she was an unemployed single mother.
Liverpool Crown Court heard that her benefit claims had not been fraudulent from the outset - but that she had then repeatedly failed to notify the authorities that she was living with her partner, Darren Laird.
A joint investigation by St Helens Council and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) subsequently found that, during the 10-year period, Lyon, of Hard Lane, had in fact been entitled to just £23,000 in tax credits.
David Potter, prosecuting, told how Mr Laird’s “footprint” had been indelibly linked with Ms Lyon’s address from early 2002.
When the duo were placed under surveillance, he was spotted coming and going from the address on a daily basis.
Lyon, who initially protested her innocence before pleading guilty before Liverpool Crown Court, lived “a comfortable lifestyle” throughout that time, making daily cash withdrawals of around £50, the court was told.
Steven Swift, defending, argued that the fraud had not been professionally planned and said his client, who had no previous convictions, was “in a state of turmoil and extreme distress” because of the impact of her actions on her 11-year-old daughter.
Recorder Suzanne Goddard jailed Lyon for eight months.
She told Lyon: “You knew perfectly well that you should have disclosed that you were living together and it’s clear you were living a comfortable lifestyle.
“I’m quite satisfied that this fraud was not motivated by any great need on your behalf.”
Lyon sobbed as she was sentenced and had to be helped from the dock by security guards.
Speaking afterwards the senior investigating officer, who asked not to be named, said: “This is the biggest amount I’ve ever seen fraudulently claimed.
“It was one of our toughest ever investigations too - any case which includes such a long period of time requires plenty of legwork.”
Jane Baker, the regional DWP fraud manager, added: “People pretending to live alone to get benefits is one of the most common types of benefit fraud. People must tell us if their situation changes before it’s too late.”