March 5 2015 Latest news:
Friday, April 4, 2014
A benefit fraudster who conned a council out of £19,000 after changing her name and opening secret bank accounts has dodged prison.
Karen Pearson, 56, of Campion Road, Thetford, told Breckland Council she had no savings, one bank account, and no other assets.
When investigators looked into her finances, they found she had changed her identity by deed poll and opened two bank accounts in her new name.
Pearson pleaded guilty to two counts of dishonestly making a false statement to obtain benefits and two of dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances at Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court yesterday.
Lauren Bond, representing Anglia Revenues Partnership (ARP), said Pearson had claimed more than £19,000 in unemployment, housing and council tax benefit from September 2011 until March 2013.
When questioned, Pearson told investigators she had one bank account with £2,500 in it and no other savings.
She also claimed a recent divorce had left her penniless. But it emerged that she was given a £21,889 redundancy payout in January 2012 by Portsmouth City Council.
Pearson said £19,000 of the money went straight to loan sharks, who had been threatening her family after she had built up gambling debts.
She also told the investigators she rented her house.
But her landlord claimed she owned the house, had paid for improvements on it, but had it put in his name.
Veronica Candy, mitigating, said Pearson had come to Thetford after suffering “30 years of domestic abuse” at the hands of her ex-husband.
She said she had changed her identity and not registered the house and bank account under her original name for fear of him tracking her down.
She also suffers from mental health problems, according to Ms Candy.
Sarah Hardingham, lead magistrate, sentenced Pearson to six weeks in prison, suspended for two years. She was ordered to pay a £100 fine.