Tax-cheat mum was benefit worker

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A FRAUDSTER worked at a benefits office while fleecing taxpayers out of almost £39,000 in tax credits by claiming she was a single mum.

Janice Lee lied about her childcare costs and denied that she was living with someone to rack up the Government cash she was receiving.

The mum launched the swindle while she was working for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and so was the man she failed to notify officials she was living with.

Lee, 37, pleaded guilty to six counts of fraud, which were carried out between April 2005 and September 2010, at Teesside Crown Court.

Judge Peter Bowers ordered a report be prepared on Lee, of Thornton Street, Hartlepool, by probation officers and granted her unconditional bail until she is sentenced on January 20 next year.

But he warned Lee: “The fact you have bail does not mean you won’t go to prison when you come back.”

Andrew West, prosecuting, said that the £38,862.01 Lee admitted to illegally gaining was on top of benefits she was rightfully due to and received.

Mr West added: “She was entitled to some, but not all. It wasn’t dishonest from the beginning, it seems to have slipped into dishonesty.

“She was working for the DWP at the time.”

Richard Herrmann, mitigating, read out sentencing guidelines that indicated Lee faces a prison term of between eight weeks and 12 months, but said he hopes any jail could be suspended with it being his client’s first time in court.

He added: “Her employment gave her no access. She could have been working anywhere else. It’s an interesting fact rather than one that aggravates the offence.

“This clearly crosses the custody threshold as it is in the bracket of between £20,000 and £100,000 and was carried out over a period of time.

“The argument will be that she is of good character and has children. Maybe it could be suspended.”

A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said Lee has not worked for the department since 2009.