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Gravesend benefit fraudster Mary Cole handed 300 hours of unpaid work

Maidstone Crown Courtby Julia Roberts

A mum who falsely claimed more than £43,000 in benefits has been ordered to carry out a staggering 300 hours in unpaid work.

A judge at Maidstone Crown Court made the unusual move of imposing the maximum amount of hours that can be undertaken in a year as part of a suspended sentence.

It comes after the court heard how for eight years mum-of-three Mary Cole fraudulently applied for income support and housing and council tax benefits.

The 40-year-old, of Ingoldsby Road, Gravesend, claimed on several renewal forms she was a single parent.

Investigations revealed her husband, Duncan, was not only living in the matrimonial home but had a job.

The court heard Cole was therefore not entitled to any of the benefits she received between January 2001 and November 2008.

Cole admitted one offence of obtaining a money transfer by deception between June 2004 and November 2008.

She also admitted six offences of making a false representation between January 2001 and November 2004.

The total amount received by Cole in the form of the three benefits was £43,273.53.

On Friday, Cole, who works at Ebbsfleet Football Club, was given a one-year jail term suspended for two years.

Judge Andrew Patience QC told Cole it was "not without some hesitation" that he was imposing a suspended sentence.

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