A WOMAN who had more than £56,000 in a savings account lied to council officials so she could continue claiming benefits, a court has heard.
Leah Macdonald, of Fir Vale Road, Bournemouth, said that she had just £200, when she had actually inherited tens of thousands of pounds.
Despite stashing the money away, the 41-year-old continued to claim housing and council tax benefit without informing Bournemouth Borough Council of the change in her circumstances.
Johanne McNamara, prosecuting on behalf of the council, said the defendant was awarded benefits in 2010.
“She said at this time that she had savings of £100,” she said.
“On November 1 2010, she completed a change of circumstances form and said she was working in a care home as an activities coordinator. On December 1 2010, she received capital in the sum of £56,458.52. She did not notify the authority and continued to claim benefit as if she was on a low income.”
In March of the following year, Macdonald applied for housing benefit on the basis that her work hours had been cut, the prosecutor said.
“At the time, her savings were in excess of £40,000,” Ms McNamara said.
“On June 23 that year, she said she had no savings as her partner had stolen them, but she had more than £25,000.”
The prosecutor said the defendant claimed around £2,889 in benefits at this time.
Macdonald admitted failing to notify a change of circumstances, two counts of falsely producing a document to obtain benefits, falsely making a statement to obtain benefits and falsely producing a document to obtain benefits at Bournemouth Magistrates’ Court. She was sentenced to an 18-month conditional discharge after the court heard she had battled an “extreme” addiction to alcohol.
Mitigating, Brendan Allen said she has already paid back around £800 of the money owned through her legitimately-claimed benefits.
“When in the throes of a significant relapse, she got through a significant quantity of money,” he said.
“She is now £70,000 in debt as a result of loans she has taken out while in addiction.”