Benefits cheat stole £85,000

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A benefit cheat from Ancaster who trousered over £85,000 has been ordered to pay some of the money back by selling her former home.

Penelope Hughes, 43, was jailed for 24 weeks in July after she cheated the benefits system for seven years by falsely claiming to be a single mum.

She admitted taking income support and council tax benefit - which she was not entitled to - after failing to tell the authorities that her husband had moved back into the four-bedroomed house they shared in Sleaford after earlier separating.

Inquiries showed that the couple obtained several joint loans with Robert Hughes declaring he was living with his wife.

A surveillance operation revealed that a car belonging to Robert Hughes was parked overnight outside his wife’s home but when questioned she claimed he was living elsewhere but had no parking space at his own home.

The department of work and pensions began an investigation into the Hughes’ finances after she was sentenced earlier this year.

A proceeds of crime hearing at Lincoln Crown Court was told Hughes made a benefit of £85,571 from her false claims.

Trevor Meegan, prosecuting, told the court Hughes had assets of £14,250 which could be realised by selling the property.

Judge Sean Morris ordered the sum of £14,250 to be confiscated from Hughes and warned her that she could face a further jail sentence if the money is not paid back within six months.

Judge Morris told Hughes: “If you don’t you could serve nine months in default. If you have problems selling your house you can always apply for an extension.”

Hughes ,43, now of Ermine Street, Ancaster, admitted two charges of failing to notify the authorities of a change in circumstances while claiming benefits between June 2002 and June 2009.

Tony Stanford, defending, said Hughes originally made a legitimate claim for benefits after her husband left their home.