Benefit cheat fraudulently claimed £33,000

Craven Herald: The defendant appeared at Burnley Crown Court The defendant appeared at Burnley Crown Court

A benefits cheat who falsely claimed more than £33,000 while living with her partner has been ordered to pay it all back.

Grandmother Helen Ratcliffe, 44, received four separate benefits over a 10-month period but failed to declare that she shared a house with Kate Nuttall – formerly known as Andrew, her husband.

Ms Ratcliffe, of Mosley Street, Barnoldswick, was spared jail at Burnley Crown Court after a judge accepted that the couple had “considerable domestic problems”.

Instead she was given a six-month prison sentence suspended for two years.

Investigators from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) discovered the scam after receiving an anonymous tip-off.

Between February and November 2012 she claimed a total of £33,111.59 in housing benefit, income support, council tax benefit and disability living allowance (DLA).

On one occasion she was observed arriving for a DWP interview on foot despite claiming DLA for being unable to walk for more than 90 seconds.

Kimberley Obrusik, prosecuting, told the court Ms Ratcliffe had not informed the authority about “a reduction in her care”.

Miss Obrusik said: “She stated she had got a taxi to the interview and had not contacted her husband since 2008.”

Philip Holden, defending, said: “What effectively happened here, and I accept there has been an element of dishonesty, is that the two split up when [Kate] told her that she had been cross-dressing “There was a period of time they didn’t live together. The position now is that their relationship is likely to last for some time.”

Ms Ratcliffe pleaded guilty to six offences of failing to notify the DWP of changes in her circumstances at an earlier hearing.

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