A COUPLE who claimed years of benefits while enjoying exotic holidays and expensive cars have been jailed.
“Shopaholic” Nicola Rogers and husband Bryan travelled to Egypt and renewed their wedding vows in a lavish ceremony over the course of a six-year fraud, which between them reached a total of almost £69,000.
While the couple, of Poplar Way, Ringwood, had initially began claiming benefits legally, as both were off work, Mr Rogers, 48, then began to work again.
An investigation by the Department of Work and Pensions and New Forest District Council revealed he was employed by three family-owned companies while continuing to claim.
Before they were sentenced at Bournemouth Crown Court on Thursday, Judge John Harrow heard that even while confined to her bed through illness, Mrs Rogers – now 44 – had continued to spend money.
Mitigating, Richard Griffiths admitted that the prosecution had “painted rather a bleak picture”.
“[When they started to claim] Mrs Rogers was really quite unwell,” he said.
“She was extremely overweight, which exacerbated her arthritis, and led to her being bedridden.”
Mrs Rogers’ condition improved when she had gastric band surgery, and over the next few years, the couple jetted around the world on holiday and spent money on scuba diving gear, a Range Rover and a series of sumptuous events, including birthday parties.
“Mrs Rogers has contact with counsellors who assist with spending problems,” Mr Griffiths said.
“It’s going to be a long, difficult road for her, but it is a road, and journey, she has started to take.”
Andrew Evans, prosecuting, said: “Some years, their undeclared income actually doubled their income.”
When investigators caught up with the couple, Mr Evans said: “Mrs Rogers pleaded poverty.
“She said she’d had to buy herself a pair of jeans for just £3, when in fact when had spent over £100 the previous week in Primark.”
In January, Mrs Rogers had taken to Facebook to boast of a holiday at an exclusive ski resort in Mont Blanc.
Mrs Rogers pleaded guilty to three counts under the Theft Act – obtaining money to transfer by deception and two counts of evasion of liability by deception, as well as a single count of fraud under the Fraud Act.
Her husband admitted two counts of evasion of liability by deception.
Judge Harrow sentenced Mrs Rogers to 14 months behind bars, while Mr Rogers received a nine-month sentence.
He said: “In my judgement, this was deliberate, calculated, prolonged dishonesty.”
He added that their spending, in particular Mrs Rogers’, had been “reckless and unnecessary”, and said: “The bill for state benefit in this country is huge.
“Benefits are for people in need, close to subsistence level, and because of the volume of claimants and need, in many cases, for urgency when making payments, authorities have to invest a large amount of trust in people [to be honest].
“You have both breached that trust.”