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Woman given community order for £22,000 benefit fraud
Updated 7:28am Thursday 5th June 2014 in News
A WOMAN who falsely claimed almost £22,000 in benefits while living with her partner has been ordered to carry out 300 hours unpaid work.
Sarah Shoesmith, 28, of Thornton Road, West Marton, received £17,810 in housing benefit and £4,086 in council tax benefit between February, 2008 and March, 2013, Skipton magistrates heard.
Shoesmith, a mother of two young children, was in an "on-off" relationship with her partner, self-employed farm worker Andrew Whitworth, but accepted her continued claims for benefits had been wrong, the court was told in mitigation.
When she first claimed in 2008, she stated she had no partner and was working as a part-time waitress.
An investigation was launched by Craven District Council after it received a tip-off she was in fact sharing a common household.
Council investigators discovered credit and bank accounts registered to Mr Whitworth at the Thornton Road address, in addition to a mail order account and hire purchase agreement.
They further traced birth certificates for two children, naming Mr Whitworth as the father and living at the address, and evidence from their landlord of them having a joint agreement.
In interview, Shoesmith denied living with Mr Whitworth, but admitted he cared for the children while she was working and paid no maintenance. She further accepted they had been on holiday together and understood she should have informed the council of a change in circumstances.
Lisa Shepherd, prosecuting for the council, said: "The failure to declare Mr Whitworth was living at Thornton Road meant that his presence and income were not taken into account in calculating Miss Shoesmith's entitlement to benefits, resulting in an overpayment in the sum of £21,896.
Shoesmith, who admitted five counts of submitting false documents to Craven District Council, was given an 18-month community order with supervision and 300 hours unpaid work. She will also have to pay costs of £300 and a victims surcharge of £60.
She has been repaying the council at £500 per month.
A Craven District Council spokesman said: "The council commenced this investigation following an anonymous report. Anyone with similar information can contact our benefit fraud hotline on 01756 706388 or the local authority national hotline 0800 328 6340.
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