A BENEFITS cheat stole more than £15,000 from the public purse over an 18-month period.
Rebecca Fitzsimons, 22, of Oxford Street, Church Gresley, appeared at Burton Magistrates’ Court yesterday, where she pleaded guilty to two charges relating to failing to notify the Department for Work and Pensions and East Staffordshire Borough Council about a change in circumstances.
The court heard Fitzsimons, formerly of Burton, had been claiming benefits as a single parent, but failed to notify the authorities when her husband Christopher Donovan – who worked full-time – moved in with her.
Fitzsimons claimed more than £5,400 that she was not entitled to in housing benefit, more than £8,700 in income support and around £1,350 in council tax, making a total of £15,556, the court heard.
Neil O’Driscoll, defending, said she had not benefited financially from the overpayments and was currently £5,000 in debt.
He told the court: “Her partner works night shifts earning £15,000, and she has a son and a debt of £5,000.
“Often in these cases people think that they live an extravagant lifestyle, but that was not the case.
“She relies on her partner. He is the bread-winner and they are totally reliant on that.
“The pressure she was under resulted in her doing what she did.”
Magistrates imposed a 12-week prison sentence for each offence, to run concurrently and suspended for 12 months.
Magistrates said that the prolonged offences – which spanned from November 2010 to June 2012 – and the amount of money were the reason for the sentence.
They also imposed a supervision requirement, along with 40 days of education and training.
Fitzsimons will have to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work.
She must also pay £100 in court costs and an £80 victim surcharge, to be paid £10 per fortnight.