Tayside and Central Scotland

Mother-of-five jailed for £56,000 benefit fraud

Dundee Sheriff Court
Image caption Dundee Sheriff Court heard Helen Habblett claimed to be living as a single mother

A Dundee mother-of-five whose £56,000 benefit fraud was uncovered through her Facebook page has been jailed for eight months.

Helen Habblett claimed to be living as a single mother after separating from her husband in 2009.

However, a court heard the couple reunited the following year and her husband was in full-time employment.

Social media profiles, bank records and covert surveillance confirmed the couple were living together.

Dundee Sheriff Court heard that Habblett told the Department for Work and Pensions and HMRC that she was still a single mother and fraudulently claimed £48,792.75 in tax credits and £7,603.50 in income support.

Claimed income support

Depute fiscal Eilidh Robertson told a previous court hearing: "She claimed child and working tax credits in 2003 and in 2009 informed HMRC that she had separated from her husband and was living solely with her children.

"In 2011 and 2013 she confirmed there were no changes.

"She claimed for income support in 2009 and again stated she was living only with her children."

Miss Robertson said confidential information was received that Habblett had reunited with her husband, prompting an investigation.

She said: "Examination of bank records, employment records, Facebook profiles and car insurance applications suggested she was in fact co-habiting with him.

"Interviews with neighbours and surveillance further suggested they were living together."

Habblett, 51, pled guilty to charges under the Tax Credits Act and Social Security Administration Act, committed between September 2010 and July 2014.

Defence solicitor Anne Duffy said: "This started off as ignorance and just continued on.

"They had a volatile relationship and little stability.

"This case has galvanised them and they are living with the children together now."

Sheriff Alastair Carmichael told Habblett: "Given the amount of benefit involved I've come to the conclusion that only a custodial sentence is appropriate."

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