Honeymoon photos posted on Facebook led to court for benefits cheat

Burnley Magistrates Court.
Burnley Magistrates Court.

An ex-Colne benefits cheat received almost £13,000 claiming she lived alone – but got married and was caught after she posted pictures of her honeymoon in New York on Facebook.

Jacqueline Caren Blake (51) had written to the Department for Work and Pensions telling them she wanted to change her name to her maiden name following her divorce – but failed to mention she would be wed just two days later.

She is mortified by her actions and her actions were more an oversight, rather than a deceitful way to behave

Probation Officer

She had been living with her partner for almost four months before the nuptials and carried on the fraud after the ceremony in August 2014, the hearing was told.

Blake, who was receiving housing benefit and employment and support allowance, owned up to a year-long scam at Burnley Magistrates’ Court – but claimed her actions had been more of an oversight than deceit.

The defendant, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, walked into court with a stick. She admitted two counts of dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances – not informing Pendle Borough Council between May 19th, 2014 and May 27th, 2015, that she and George Loxley were living together as husband and wife and not notifying the DWP she was sharing a home with Mr Loxley as his wife between May 12th, 2014 and May 27th, 2015.

Blake, formerly of Cliff Street, Colne, but now living in Bradford, was given a 12-month community order with supervision and must pay £85 costs, a £60 victim surcharge and a £40 fine. She was told by the JPs the probation order would have been more onerous had she not pleaded guilty.

Prosecutor Mr Andrew Robinson said Blake’s claim was not a fraud from the outset. She first made a claim in 2012, for both ESA and housing benefit, on the grounds she was unfit to work, lived alone and had no income, capital or savings.

The DWP received information that from May 12th, 2014, the defendant was maintaining a common household with her partner. They were living together from that date and were married on August 30th, 2014, but still the claim persisted after that. Mr Robinson told the hearing: “Inquiries did reveal this lady was telling them information she knew was wrong in the build-up to them being married.”

The prosecutor continued: “On August 28th, the DWP received a letter, saying she wanted to change her name to her maiden name, following her divorce. She made no mention of the fact she was due to be married just two days later.”

Mr Robinson said when Blake was interviewed, she at first made denials. The DWP had been able to get a copy of the marriage certificate, the Facebook posts and financial arrangements linking both to the same address.

The prosecutor said the money would be recovered from the defendant. The total amount overpaid to her was £12,815.68, of which £8,700 was in ESA. Blake had no previous convictions.

A probation officer who interviewed the defendant told the court she expressed remorse. He continued: “She informed me she is mortified by her actions and her actions were more an oversight, rather than a deceitful way to behave.

“Unfortunately, she failed to notify a change in circumstances. She recognises the dim view the court will take of this behaviour.”

The court heard Blake, a former mobile social care worker, was diagnosed with MS in 2007. The defendant was now said to spend a lot of her time watching daytime television and playing games on her laptop. The officer added: “She is really struggling with her finances.”

Mr Bash Khan, in mitigation, said: “She accepted responsibility for these offences in interview. She has entered a guilty plea at her first court appearance.”

He added :” This wasn’t a fraud from outset. For nine years, she has suffered from multiple sclerosis and she has mobility issues. She is of previous good character.”