A benefit cheat lied to investigators about being a lesbian in an attempt to cover-up a relationship with her landlord, who was in fact the father of her children.
Manchester and Salford Magistrates Court heard how Caroline Ann Butler, 42, of Chatburn Avenue, Rochdale, claimed nearly £18,000 in Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, Employment Support Allowance and Income Support between September 2010 and May 2012, despite living with landlord Andrew Donaldson, 56.
During a joint investigation by Rochdale Borough Council and the Department for Work and Pensions, Butler denied any link with Donaldson, and then claimed to have known him for only five years previous to moving into the property. She increased this to 15 years after being shown her children’s birth certificates with Donaldson listed as their father, but still denied the relationship.
Butler said she was a lesbian and that Donaldson was not the biological father, claiming that her children all had different dads and Donaldson was just a friend.
She then walked out of a second interview after admitting her landlord had been living with her for six months.
At a court hearing on 6 September, Butler pleaded not guilty to four counts of dishonesty under Sections 1 and 3 of the 2006 Fraud Act. However, Magistrates found her guilty of fraudulently claiming benefits amounting to £17,990.33.
At a sentencing hearing on 8 October, Butler was ordered to repay the full amount, in addition to £400 costs and a £60 victim surcharge, and was handed a 12 month community order and 225 hours of unpaid work.
Councillor Farooq Ahmed, Cabinet Member for Finance at Rochdale Borough Council, said: “It is saddening to hear about the lengths some people go to when attempting to support fraudulent claims. I’m grateful to our Fraud Team for bringing this individual to justice, and I hope it serves as a warning to anyone attempting to collect money to which they are not entitled. We will always pursue these cases to the fullest extent of the law.”
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