A BENEFIT cheat, who claimed £99,000 she was not entitled to, wept as she was put behind bars.
Julie Sinclair failed to declare she had married, and was living with her husband.
As a result, over an eight-year period, she kept receiving benefits she shouldn’t have, a court heard.
And despite Sinclair, who cares for her autistic son, breaking down in the dock, a judge said he had no option but to lock her up because of the amount involved and the length of the fraud.
Jailing her for four months, Judge Brian Forster QC, at Newcastle Crown Court, told her: “You have lived your life knowingly on a false basis.
“I take fully on board that you are committed to your son, and you are the main carer for him.
“Even taking into account the available mitigation, I’m not able to avoid an immediate custodial sentence.”
Sinclair, 45, of Iona Road, Jarrow, had initially claimed income support, council tax benefit and housing benefit legitimately from 2000.
But around three years later, she married and her husband moved in with her, but she failed to tell the authorities.
She pleaded guilty to three charges of failing to notify a change of circumstances and four offences of making a dishonest representation to obtain benefits.
Andrew Findlay, defending, said Sinclair’s husband had money problems resulting from a previous relationship, and that the ill-gotten gains were only spent on necessities.
He said: “This is not a case of high living. There is no evidence it was spent on extravagances – this money was spent on living and that is it.
“She had simply put it to the back of her mind and the longer it went on, the harder it was to report it.
“She accepts she should have told the DWP and the council.”
Mr Findlay said Sinclair looks after her 24-year-old son, who has autism.
He said: “She has never been employed to any great extent because of her family commitments, she is the main carer for her son, who was discharged from any formal assistance when he was 16.
“She is a lady of good character and this has been a considerable strain on her and her family.”