Stoke & Staffordshire

Snorkelling benefits cheat sentenced for 'barefaced lies'

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Media captionHoey was photographed snorkelling on holiday while claiming she could barely walk

A benefits cheat caught out by holiday photos showing her snorkelling has been given an 18-month suspended jail term.

Linda Hoey, 58, deceived authorities for 15 years, wrongly claiming £65,244 in disability benefits as well as using a motability vehicle to dodge £15,690 in M6 Toll fees.

The judge at Stafford Crown Court said Hoey told "barefaced lies" and is "someone whose word cannot be trusted."

Hoey, from Amington, Tamworth, had her jail sentence suspended for two years.

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Image copyright PA
Image caption Linda Hoey had been claiming benefits for degenerative arthritis and a back problem since 1995

She was also made the subject of a six-month electronic curfew.

Hoey falsely claimed she could barely walk and suffered back pain bad enough she had to walk backwards down the stairs and needed to use furniture for support.

Medical evidence showed although Hoey had what Judge Michael Elsom described as "a degree of disability", she was found to have exaggerated her condition.

Photos of her snorkelling on holiday and accounts from colleagues who said she would carry trays of cups of tea exposed "15 years of dishonesty", Mr Elsom said.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Hoey used a stick when leaving court on Monday

A Department for Work and Pensions investigation found despite claiming more than £65,000 in disability payments, Hoey had been in paid employment since 1997.

Mr Elsom said: "At the time you were telling those lies, you were actually going to work every day, driving yourself to work every day and you were observed walking."

Image copyright DWP
Image caption Another picture showed her on holiday on a quad bike

Her claims "were nothing more than bare faced lies which you continued in this court", he told her.

The judge said her conduct "merits harsh words" and told Hoey: "I hardly think you merit the description your daughter gave you, as someone to whom she can look up to as a role model.

"If that's the sort of role model that your daughter thinks is appropriate - that's a very great shame indeed."

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