Grangemouth mum faces jail for benefit fraud

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A mum-of-three who falsely claimed nearly £50,000 in tax credits and income support has been warned she faces jail.

Sarah Hamilton (32) concealed her marriage from the taxman for nine years.

Today at Falkirk Sheriff Court, procurator fiscal depute Samantha Brown said the offences came to light after a tip off.

She said Hamilton made a claim for child tax credit and working tax credit in her maiden name – Sarah Smith – on August 15,2007, saying she was a single mother-of-one.

In October 2012, she contacted HMRC again, saying her son should be added to her claim, and she was unemployed, still single, and now had responsibility for two children.

The same year, she made a claim to the Department of Work and Pensions for Income Support, this time using her married name of Hamilton, but declaring she was separated.

The depute fiscal said: “Around February 4, 2016, the tax credits award was terminated as a result of information received by HMRC.

“As part of the claim for Income Support, she was interviewed and a review of her circumstances was conducted.

“She advised that at that stage she was living in a property owned by her former partner and he was responsible for the mortgage but he was not living with her at that address.

“It was made clear that should that situation change, she should make a declaration.

“The DWP then received an allegation that she was living with her partner and a full investigation was carried out.

“Her marriage certificate showed that she was married to her partner, Robert Hamilton, on March 3, 2007.

“A full investigation was carried out and it showed that for a significant period of time when she was receiving the money she was living with him.”

Hamilton, of Roxburgh Street, Grangemouth, pleaded guilty to obtaining £40,000 in child tax credit and working tax credit, together with £8188 income support, to which she was not entitled. The offences were committed between August 15, 2007 and February 4, 2016.

Miss Brown said that, to date, Hamilton had repaid none of the money falsely claimed.

Deferring sentence until May 17 for reports, and continuing bail, Sheriff Craig Caldwell told Hamilton: “You have pled guilty to obtaining almost £50,000 of public funds to which you were not entitled, over a very long period of time, by making false claims and representations.

“That is an extremely serious matter, and the sentencing guidelines for these type of offences indicate that only in exceptional circumstances will a prison sentence be avoided where the sum derived is more than £20,000.

“It seems inevitable that in due course a custodial sentence will be imposed on you, and it will be a lengthy one.”

The court also heard that Hamilton’s house may be forced to be sold to recoup the money, as part of parallel proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act.