Woman posed as single mum to swindle £97k while secretly living with partner

A benefits cheat who went on five-star holidays to Cyprus raked in nearly £100,000 after claiming she was living alone while she was actually shacked up with her partner.

Claire Finney, 41, falsely claimed the £97,000 in payouts over five years, reports the Manchester Evening News.

But the mum-of-four was caught out following an investigation by HMRC, the Department for Work and Pensions and Salford City Council.

Finney had previously pleaded guilty at Manchester Crown Court to four offences of failing to disclose information to appropriate bodies that she was legally obligated to. Yesterday she was handed a suspended prison sentence.

Eleanor Gleeson, prosecuting, said Finney was sharing a house with Joseph Perry, who was said to be her partner from April 2014 to July 2019.

In her claims for tax credits, she stated she was a single parent and failed to declare that she was living with Mr Perry at this time.

When she was caught and questioned, she confirmed that every tax-credit annual renewal claim was false as Mr Perry continued to live with her, and she also admitted that she’d not worked since she started claiming in 2009 and that she had "inflated child care costs for financial gain".

On August 5, 2015, Finney, of Chelmer Way, Eccles, was required to confirm her renewal over the phone for the previous tax year.

She maintained she was single, despite the fact Mr Perry was living with her and supporting the family.

"Investigations discovered that at this stage both the defendant and Mr Perry had been named as jointly liable for council tax on the address since 2011," Ms Gleeson said.

"The defendant was entitled to claim £38,007.27 in tax credits. She in fact claimed £117,871.68. As a result, it is calculated she received £79,864.61 in overpayments over that period in tax credits."

Finney went on to make a claim for income support in March 2016, declaring to the DWP that she had stopped working, had separated from her partner and was a single parent. She was overpaid £8,406.40, the court heard.

Finney also made a claim for housing benefit from Salford City Council, again declaring she was a single parent. She was overpaid £3,446.25.

On February 19, 2019, she made a claim for universal credit but failed to notify the DWP that she was receiving other benefits. These were cancelled once the universal credit was awarded. She was entitled to claim £1,132.51 in universal credit but was overpaid £5,310.

Of the £97,000 that Finney was wrongly given, Finney has so far repaid £362.25 in income support. The other repayments can be made only after she has paid off the total amount of income support.

Sentencing, Judge Nicholas Dean QC said: "These were public funds that you were not entitled to and you are paying back what you owe.

"You live with very young children. They would be deprived of your care and they would suffer, you really wouldn’t suffer, so the sentence should be suspended."

Finney was given a 12-month jail, sentence suspended for two years, and was ordered to do 180 hours of unpaid work and 20 days of rehabilitation activity requirements.

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