Benefit cheat spared jail term
A SUFFOLK benefit cheat who dishonestly claimed more than �50,000 she wasn’t entitled to has walked free from court after a judge decided not to send her straight to prison.
As a single mum Jodie Bessey had been claiming income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit but her claims became dishonest when she failed to notify the authorities that her partner Michael Gordon had moved in with her following their wedding in Las Vegas in July 2004, Ipswich Crown Court heard.
Mother-of-three Bessey, 33, of Rotterdam Road, Lowestoft, admitted three offences of making false statements to claim benefit between July 2004 and 2008 by failing to declare that she was living with Gordon while 31-year-old Gordon, of the same address, admitted two offences of making statements to obtain benefit.
Sentencing the couple Judge David Goodin said “I’m told that you are disgusted and ashamed of yourselves and so you should be.”
He said they were responsible for a series of “thefts from the public purse”.
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However, although Bessey’s offences crossed the custody threshold he felt able to pass an eight month prison sentence suspended for two years in her case.
He also ordered her to be under the supervision of a probation officer for 12 months and ordered her to do 200 hours unpaid work in the community.
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Judge Goodin said that Gordon’s offending, which involved �12,000, did not cross the custody threshold and he sentenced him to a 20 week curfew between the hours of 9pm and 6am.
Alan Weetman, prosecuting, said that prior to her marriage Bessey had made lawful claims for benefit but these became dishonest when she failed to notify the authorities that Gordon had moved in with her following their wedding in Las Vegas in July 2004.
He said the total amount dishonestly obtained by Bessey was �52,131 while Gordon had dishonestly obtained �12,613.
Mr Weetman told the court that Gordon, who was claiming disability living allowance, had falsely claimed that he had been living in Castleton Close, Lowestoft.
He said the offences came to light after investigators followed a “paper trail” which included obtaining a marriage certificate from Nevada, USA.
“If it had been known they were living together there would have been no entitlement to the benefits that were paid out,” said Mr Weetman.
Lori Tucker, for both defendants, said that both their claims for benefit had been legitimate at the outset.
“They didn’t cohabit until after their marriage,” said Miss Tucker.
She said Gordon suffered from an illness which caused him to suffer from epilepsy and he was currently off sick from work.
She said Bessey had been working as a taxi driver but now had a 21-week-old baby.
“Family finances are strained,” said Miss Tucker.
She said the couple, who will have to repay the money they obtained, were “utterly disgusted” with themselves for what they had done.