£17,000 council fraud mum spared jail

Karen Wilson.
Karen Wilson.

A MUM who fleeced council bosses out of more than £17,000 in benefits has avoided jail.

Karen Wilson, 48, who told benefits chiefs at Hartlepool Borough Council her husband was her landlord, was sentenced to a 12-month community order and ordered to pay £1,000 court costs at a rate of £100 per month.

Wilson had told the local authority she was living with her son in Johnson Street, Hartlepool.

She falsely claimed £17,304.03 in housing and council tax benefit and has paid back £1,761.93 since an investigation into her claims began.

Wilson, now of The Front, Seaton Carew, had told the local authority her landlord was a P Wilkinson. But it emerged her husband Peter Wilson was paying the mortgage while Wilson carried out the con.

Representing the council, Tony McNab told Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court the council’s benefits fraud team and council tax department received details which showed discrepancies between the owner of the house in Johnson Street and the stated landlord.

An investigation by the council’s fraud team revealed the owner of the house had been Peter Wilson from April 28, 2006.

Financial checks linked Karen Wilson to Peter Wilson and correspondence was received that linked the pair to a joint loan on the property.

Southern Pacific Mortgage Services provided a statement confirming the couple had taken out the loan and secured it on the property on May 29, 2007.

The pair declared on the application form that Peter Wilson had lived at the address for a year and four months.

Wilson later sent the council a change of address notification form saying she had moved to Reef House, at Hartlepool Marina, and now lived alone.

Information from Mr Wilson’s employers confirmed his address was Johnson Street from April 19, 2006, until September 2009 and that his address at the time of the investigation was Reef House, where Karen Wilson had said she lived alone.

The landlord of Reef House provided a tenancy agreement which had been signed by the couple on September 25, 2009.

Wilson, who receives incapacity benefit and disability living allowance, was interviewed and cautioned over making a false declaration concerning the name of her landlord.

She admitted four counts of making a false statement to obtain benefit between May 11, 2006 and September 24, 2009.

Neil Taylor, mitigating, said Wilson, who is of previous good character, is seeing a counsellor for mental health problems.

He added: “The contents of the pre-sentence report will tell you this is a lady with severe mental health problems whose way of dealing with things is to put her head in the sand.

“She also has difficulties in understanding and comprehending matters of complexity.

“It’s not disputed she signed the mortgage forms. It’s not disputed that a mortgage was granted to her husband.

“Her understanding of what was happening was negligent, but that’s not a defence.”