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Tuesday 12 February 2013 Updated: 13/02 11:28
A WARNDON mum who fraudulently claimed nearly £20,000 in benefits has escaped jail.
Natasha Windiate, 24, was handed a conditional discharge of 24 months and ordered to repay all of the money she swindled after pleading guilty to the charges brought by Worcester City Council.
From November 2008, Windiate had claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit as a single person. The claims related to her current home on Chedworth Drive and her previous addresses on Randwick Drive and Chedworth Close, which she had rented.
But through a joint investigation with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), council investigators found that Windiate had failed to declare she was living with her partner, Adam Windiate, at the same address.
He was working while she was continuing to claim benefits.
When she was interviewed in October 2011 and February 2012 she denied they had been living together as a common household.
However at the second interview, by which time her benefits claims had already been cancelled, she confirmed they had got married in November 2011.
The investigation found Windiate had received over-payments of £7,647.67 in Jobseeker’s Allowance and £12,256.92 in Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit because of her fraudulent claims.
Her case was heard at Worcester Magistrates Court on February 7, where she pleaded guilty to the charges.
In mitigation, her solicitor Sarah Brady told the bench Windiate was utterly ashamed of what had happened.
Magistrates were told that Windiate had had a difficult background in care, but was now in paid employment.
She also suffered from anxiety and depression and had a six month old baby.
Magistrates ordered her to fully repay all the benefits she was not entitled to and prosecutors for the council were awarded costs of £500.
Nick Jefferies, Head of Shared Services at the city council, said: “We consider benefit fraud to be a serious matter. People have a duty to notify us and report any change in circumstances when it comes to matters that might affect benefit payments, just as we have a duty to protect public funds.”
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