Benefits cheat had £44,000 in bank account

A Burnley benefits "cheat" received almost £17,000 she wasn't entitled to after not letting on she had £44,000 in the bank, a court heard.
Burnley Magistrates' CourtBurnley Magistrates' Court
Burnley Magistrates' Court

Pauline Anne Metcalfe made a telephone application to the Department for Work and Pensions for employment and support allowance in November 2014 and when asked if she had any capital, claimed she had £4,700.

Miss Charlotte Crane (prosecuting) told the town's magistrates: "It transpired she had £44,000 in the bank, money she was holding in respect of her mother."

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Miss Crane said Metcalfe was also in contact with the DWP in 2017 and again didn't disclose the fact she had more than the £16,000 allowed. She said Metcalfe's claim was "deemed as dishonest from the word go."

The hearing was told the 63-year old, who says half of the £44,000 was to be given to her brother from their late mother's estate, has now paid back the £16, 950.35 she got from the public purse in full. She had received the benefits money between November 2014 and January 2018. The defendant had no previous convictions.

Mr Ben Leech (defending) told the hearing Metcalfe had never troubled the police or courts and had had an exemplary employment record. She had worked up until 2009, when she gave up to look after her elderly mother. She was her primary carer. The defendant looked after her mother round the clock and received carer's allowance and income support. Her mother died in 2014.

Mr Leech said between May and November that year, there was a period of flux when her income wasn't sustained and it was difficult for her to remember what happened as she was struggling with the loss of her mother. Metcalfe would have told the DWP that the £4,700 was her only savings.

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The solicitor added: "At that stage, that money she had in her bank was her mum's money and she was acting as a collector of the money. She did not set out to deceive and I would also suggest this is not a lady who has contacted the DWP to set up a fraudulent claim.

"She brought it to the attention of HMRC that she had this sum in her bank and asked if she should pay tax on that."

The defendant, of Nairne Street, Burnley, admitted dishonestly making a false statement to obtain a benefit on November 4, 2014. She was given 16 weeks in prison, suspended for a year and must pay £85 costs and a £115 victim surcharge.