Published: 15:00, 02 May 2014 |
A Folkestone mother-of-five claimed more than £34,000 in benefits - when all her children had been taken into care.
Sandylynn McEnroe, 23, began receiving benefits in November 2004 after the birth of her first child.
She then had more children and began getting child benefits, income support and in 2010 started claiming child tax credits.
But Canterbury Crown Court heard that in January 2011 the four children were taken into care and she was expected to alert the authorities to the change.
Instead, McEnroe - of Bradstone Road - had another child in May that was immediately taken into care as well, the court heard.
However, McEnroe contacted the Department for Work and Pensions to ask for more money.
Prosecutor Eve George told the court it was only in April last year when investigators began an inquiry that her money was stopped.
McEnroe later claimed she could not accept the five children had been taken into care "and carried on as if she still had care of all of them".
McEnroe - who has previous convictions for shoplifting, making false representations and handling stolen goods - said she had been staying in bed and breakfast accommodation so she could be near the children and had used the £34,682 to buy them presents.
Kerry Waitt, defending said McEnroe was now repaying the DWP at £26 a fortnight.
He added: "My client maintained contact with all five of the children. She just couldn't let go and acknowledge they were no longer her responsibility.
"As a mother she felt an inherent responsibility and she compensated by buying them gifts, clothes and funding bed and breakfast to be near them.
"The money improperly gained was not used to fund some lavish lifestyle funded by the state."
McEnroe, who admitted three fraud offences, was given an eight-month jail sentence suspended for two years.
The judge, recorder Peter Wallis, told her: "These were offences which occurred over a long period of time and involved considerable sums of money being defrauded from the state.
"You had a number of opportunities to come clean, but I accept you are struggling with mental health issues. I also take as gospel the use to which your lawyer says you put the money."
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