Published: 10:00, 25 September 2015
| Updated: 10:10, 25 September 2015
A woman who lived with a professional snooker star has been spared jail after taking £86,000 in benefit fraud - so her innocent children aren't deprived of their mother.
Juanita Thorne, 37, of Holding Street, Gillingham, moved in with Gerard Greene in 2005 but she still claimed income support, job seekers allowance, housing benefit, council tax benefit and discretionary housing payments totalling a whopping £86,844.13.
Because of her low income a judge has also ruled she does not need to pay any costs for her offences.
Thorne told investigators from Medway Council and the Department for Work and Pensions that despite moving in with Mr Greene, who is ranked 40 in the world, she did not believe the relationship would last.
She also continued to claim income support as a single parent and other benefits relating to a previous address in Charing Road, Gillingham.
She had signed documents to say she was living at Charing Road to get social housing from Medway Council; but had not done so since 2005 and had acted dishonestly when obtaining the tenancy.
The offences only came to light when a complaint was made to Medway Council about the state of the garden at Charing Road.
Medway Council officials soon established she had not been living at the address for years. The property has since been recovered.
At Maidstone Crown Court, Thorne pleaded guilty to a charge of obtaining property by deception regarding the tenancy at Charing Road and received nine months imprisonment suspended for two years with 200 hours unpaid work.
She also pleaded guilty to seven dishonesty offences relating to her fraudulent claims for income support, job seekers allowance, housing benefit, council tax benefit and discretionary housing payments between 2005 and 2013.
For the offence relating to her dishonest claim for income support, which amounted to over £50,000, she was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment suspended for two years with a requirement to complete 200 hours unpaid work.
For the other offences she was sentenced to nine months imprisonment suspended for two years with a requirement to complete 200 hours of unpaid work. The sentences will run concurrently.
No costs were awarded due to her limited income and Judge Philip St John-Stevens, said he would not send Thorne to jail because it would deprive innocent children of their mother.
Medway Council’s leader and head of finance, Cllr Alan Jarrett, said: “This case demonstrates that if you commit any type of benefit fraud you will be caught no matter how long you have got away with it for.
“These people are not just committing offences against authorities like Medway Council, they are committing fraud against every single tax payer who ultimately picks up the bill.
“They also put those who are in genuine need of benefits in a bad light. If the court had not taken this woman’s children into consideration she would now be looking at a very long time behind bars.”
Department for Work and Pensions and Medway Council work together to stamp out benefit fraud and will continue seeking to reclaim the money that was paid to Thorne.
Medway Council runs a confidential Fraud Hotline, for anyone who thinks someone is defrauding the council, on 01634 332233.