An Oakham woman has been put behind bars after admitting a £130,000 benefit fraud.
Catherine Dalby claimed income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit for 15 years when she was not entitled to the money.
Sam Skinner, prosecuting, told Lincoln Crown Court that Dalby made a legitimate claim for benefits in October 1996 but within two months she married her lorry driver husband Geoffrey in a Christmas Eve ceremony.
Dalby never declared her marriage despite a number of opportunities to tell the authorities of her change in circumstances.
Mr Skinner said “It was not until April 2011 that the authorities received information that the defendant was living with Mr Dalby.
“An investigation revealed that she was married on Christmas Eve 1996. She had a joint bank account with her husband and they made joint applications for credit cards.”
“When the defendant was interviewed in August 2011 she initially denied they had been living as man and wife. She said her husband was a long distance lorry driver who lived away from home but admitted she had been married to him.
“In total she was paid £130,191 in benefits which she was not entitled to.”
Mr Skinner said that in recent years Dalby declared her earnings from working part-time a school teaching assistant and following her interview her benefit payments were stopped.
Dalby, 46, of Cresswell Drive, Oakham, admitted failing to notify the authorities of a change of circumstances while claiming benefits. She was jailed for 15 months.
Judge Peter Clark told her “It is a terrible shame to see you here. But over a period of 15 years you have consistently taken money from everybody else. It was money to which you knew you had no entitlement. You misled the authorities.”
Christopher Lowe, defending, said the initial benefits claim made by Dalby was genuine but once she married she should have declared her new status.
“She just buried her head in the sand. It has been a dark secret lurking in her character. Even her husband was not aware that she was claiming these benefits. She stands before you as quite literally a broken woman.”
Mr Lowe said that Dalby and her family had been the victims of a catastrophic fire which left them homeless and they lived at seven separate addresses before their home was fit for them to return to.
“There were financial implications and an emotional impact. It had a devastating effect.”