Con couple scammed the public purse out of £30,000

Burnley Crown Court.
Burnley Crown Court.

A couple of hardened criminals hijacked the identity of 23 benefits claimants to get more than £30,000 extra tax-free cash from the public purse in a sophisticated and “almost commercial” three year scam, a court heard.

Ex-drug addicts Richard Connell (45) and his long-term partner Amanda Heseltine (34) who were both receiving handouts themselves, abused their knowledge of the welfare system to make false claims to the Department for Work and Pensions. They got the money paid into their bank accounts or accounts of family members and then “frittered it away.”

Burnley Crown Court was told the pair submitted application forms for benefits using forged sick notes which were “careful reproductions of genuine documents”, made phone calls posing as genuine customers and sent correspondence to the relevant departments.

The pair may have got the victims’ details by door-to-door canvassing.

The hearing was told the crooked pair tried to get their hands on a lot more funds and only failed because they were caught by investigators. Throughout the fraud, they were both in trouble for other crimes.

Connell, already a convicted fraudster, was subject to a suspended jail term and was sent to custody for 11 months at the end of last year, while it was still going on.

Connell, who now has more than 100 offences on his record and claims employment support allowance, and Heseltine, both of Bank Street, Brierfield, each admitted 23 counts of fraud, between April 2013 and March 2016. They were both jailed for two years.