Tuesday, May 28

Benefits cheat with £40,000 in savings avoids jail



A benefit cheat who fraudulently claimed thousands of pounds despite having almost £40,000 in savings broke down in tears as she was sentenced.

Abida Khan had denied the wrong doing but avoided jail after being convicted of four counts of fraud at Teeside Magistrates’ Court, Gazette Live reports.

The mother of four claimed she only had £650 in her bank – but the reality was she had £37,438 in savings across 12 undeclared accounts.

The 52-year-old claimed income support, housing benefit and council tax relief over a period of four years, the court heard.

She was overpaid £27,142.11 before being caught in an investigation by the Department for Work and Pensions. The fraudulent claims began after Khan, 52, split up with her husband, the court heard at a previous hearing.

In evidence, Kahn told how she moved to the UK from Pakistan in 1991 through an arranged marriage to her husband but had separated in 2011.

She added that she is the sole carer of their children, aged 20, 18, 13 and 12 – two of whom have a sight disability.

Neil Douglas, defending, said his client had spent most of her life “fending for herself” having taken the unusual step for someone from her “cultural background” to leave her husband.

She has never forged a life outside the family home, Mr Douglas said.

She has picked up very limited English since moving here and her knowledge of the UK custom procedures is very limited. Following separation, when she was going to the DWP she often relied upon her children for interpretation.

Mr Douglas added that Khan has “squirrelled” away money that she did not believe to be hers.

He said: She tells me that children with disabilities in Pakistan often fall to the very bottom of society and are not looked after at all unless their immediate family can.

She was gathering money, saving and scrimping, not spending much on anything in order to ensure her children were always provided for. She didn’t declare that because she would say she didn’t think it was her money.

He added that the failure to declare the funds was a single and sole blot on Khan’s life.

She has made a very bad mistake in not providing all of the necessary information to the DWP, he said.

The shame that she feels as a result of proceedings is a punishment that cannot be in any way replicated. She has attracted the attention of the press in a way that I would have thought far more deserving and dangerous criminals should. Her public humiliation is complete.

Khan, from Hartburn, Stockton, wiped away tears and she was given a 12-week prison sentence suspended for 12 months.

She was also ordered to pay £735 costs.