Published: 00:01, 25 June 2014
A woman who "brazenly" cheated the welfare state out of almost £100,000 in benefits has been spared prison.
A judge told 46-year-old Cindi Gould that while imprisonment was demanded, he could suspend her sentence due to her health difficulties.
Gould, of The Paddock, Hadlow, had denied two offences of failing to notify a change in circumstances between March 2004 and December 2011, making a false representation in January 2011 and fraudulent activity relating to tax credits between January 2009 and December 2011.
But despite being convicted by a jury at Maidstone Crown Court in February - and previous convictions for obtaining property by deception in 1997 - Judge David Griffith-Jones QC suspended her 10-month jail term for two years.
However, he added as there needed to be an "element of punishment", he made Gould subject to a four-month tagged curfew between 8pm and 6am.
The court heard Gould was originally entitled to the benefits she was claiming, including income support.
However, she failed to notify the Department for Work and Pensions her partner had moved in with her and was working.
The total benefit paid to her over a seven-year period was described as "a shade under £100,000".
However, Andrew Lewis, defending, said there was nothing to suggest Gould had lived a "comfortable" lifestyle.
He told the court she was in a "truly wretched position", coping with both her own ill health and that of her teenage son.
Mr Lewes said radical surgery to prevent cancer "went horribly wrong" and left Gould "living a life of considerable pain and a great deal of medication".
He added her case was in a different category to those who choose not to work while claiming from the state.
Passing sentence, Judge Griffith-Jones told Gould she had been convicted on overwhelming evidence.
"This was a brazen fraud or series of frauds committed with your eyes open for your own benefit," he said.
Commenting on the sentence, Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council’s cabinet member for finance, cllr Martin Coffin said: “It’s very clear that Tonbridge and Malling residents will not tolerate benefit cheats in their communities.
"this is just the latest in a growing number of ‘tip offs’ we have received from the public and we will continue to follow up every lead to ensure that people who defraud the benefit system are caught and brought to justice.”
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