Knebworth benefit cheat spared jail

A BENEFIT cheat who illicitly pocketed more than �50,000 in state handouts has been spared jail.

Crooked Kathleen Smith, 44, trousered income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit over an 11-year period, without declaring a large sum that she had been given by her grandmother.

Prosecutor Stephen Hopper told St Albans Crown Court on Friday the total overpayment was �50,633.28.

The mother-of-two stopped claiming income support in 2005, but went on to receive the other benefits until she was snared last year.

Smith, of Muirhead Way, Knebworth, pleaded guilty to 15 offences of fraud.

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When questioned, she said she had been given a sum of money by her grandmother and was looking after it for her children.

David Wales, defending, told the court his client was illiterate.

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He added that, had the money been placed in trust for her children, she would not have committed the offence.

Mr Wales said: “She had access to the money, but did not use it.

“Had she taken legal advice she would not have come to court.”

The money was seized by the Department of Work and Pensions but Mr Wales said his client wanted to make “reparation” and would not contest a confiscation hearing.

Recorder Andrew Smith sentenced her to nine months behind bars, suspended for 18 months with nine months’ supervision.

Smith was also ordered to complete 200 hours’ unpaid work.

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