Facebook status used to catch Exeter benefits cheat

Facebook generic Samantha Close's Facebook status showed she lived with her husband, the court heard

A married benefits cheat who swindled £65,000 by claiming she was a single mother was caught after investigators checked her Facebook status, Exeter Crown Court has heard.

Samantha Close, 27, of Wykes Road, Exeter, admitted five counts of benefit fraud.

She had claimed she was struggling alone with two children but her Facebook page showed she was married.

Close was jailed for 26 weeks, suspended for 18 months.

Lied on phone

The court heard she claimed the money in income support, working tax benefits and housing benefits.

Prosecutor Jonathan Barnes, said Close started claiming legitimate claims in 2006 when she was unmarried.

However, the problems began in 2008 when she failed to inform the benefits agency that future husband Daniel Close moved in with her.

The couple then married in September 2012, which again did not put her off making the claims, for which she lied in phone calls and on housing benefit forms.

Mr Barnes said: "When she was interviewed, the officer confronted her with evidence which the department obtained from Facebook which showed she and Mr Close as a united couple from 2009."

'Truly genuine remorse'

Emily Pitts, defending, said Close devoted her life to looking after her sick mother in Cullompton, working at a call centre to keep her children, and paying for some of the child care for her daughter aged seven and son aged three.

Miss Pitts added: "The remorse she demonstrates is truly genuine."

Judge Jeremy Griggs said: "You are responsible for two young children and without getting a lot of support and clearly have considerable difficulties, but, on the other hand, this was criminal activity.

"It was a legitimate claim at first but in the situation you found yourself you did not feel able to tell the authorities what the position was."

The overpayments are being recouped from the benefits she is still receiving.

The court heard Close's husband had since left her.

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