A Rugby woman continued claiming benefits after receiving a £24,000 gift from her mother and failing to tell the council or the Department for Work and Pensions about it.
And when Tina Trunkfield realised the authorities were on to her, she transferred a £15,000 bond into her daughter’s name and has since spent it.
But despite getting more than £28,000 to which she was not entitled, she was given an 18-month community order with a 25-day rehabilitation activity by a judge at Warwick Crown Court.
Trunkfield, 52, of Wentworth Road, Rugby, had admitted two charges of failing to notify a change in circumstances when claiming benefits from the DWP and Rugby Borough Council.
Prosecutor Trevor Meegan said that Trunkfield, a former school dinner lady, had begun claiming benefits legitimately in 2007.
At first she received income support on the basis that she was not in work and had no other income and no capital, and she was also entitled to housing and council tax benefit.
He told the court: “She was originally entitled to the benefits, but failed to notify a change in her circumstances when, on November 25 2009, she received an ‘inheritance’ from her mother of £24,000.”
Mr Meegan explained that the maximum capital a person can have is £16,000 to remain entitled to benefit.
As a result of her failure to declare it, over a four-year period Trunkfield received £13,304 in income support and then employment support allowance and £15,455 in council tax and housing benefit to which she was not entitled.
When Trunkfield was questioned she said her mother had Alzheimer’s and had been moved to a nursing home.
She admitted she had received the money and paid it into her bank account before transferring £15,000 of it into a bond – but that she had then transferred that into her daughter’s name after she was told her benefits would be stopped.
Mr Meegan, who said Trunkfield was of previous good character, added that the overpayment had not been recovered, and a Proceeds of Crime Act investigation is to be carried out into Trunkfield’s finances.
Colin Charvill, defending, said: “This was not a claim that was fraudulent from the outset.”
He pointed out that the money was not an inheritance but a gift from her mother, who is still alive, but she did not declare it to the DWP or the local authority.
She spent £9,000 of it and the rest she put into a bond; but when the DWP discovered the fraud they stopped her benefits, which have only recently started again, and the £15,000 has been used on general living expenses.
Mr Charvill added that Trunkfield, who looks after her disabled father who lives a few minutes’ drive from her, was ‘remorseful and ashamed of what she did.’
Sentencing Trunkfield, Recorder Stuart Sprawson told her: “Those who exploit the system in this way must know it is always serious because it deprives others of money to which they are entitled.
“There is no doubt that in many cases the court has to consider imposing a prison sentence. However, you are 52 years of age and of good character, and you have shown remorse throughout.”