A COUPLE cheated the benefit system out of more than £42,000 despite winning £250,000 on the National Lottery.
Alfred Wells, 64, and his partner Patricia Marshall, 55, claimed pension credit, housing benefit and council tax benefit even though they had a six-figure nest egg stashed away in the bank.
Wells won £250,000 in 2008 and also received a lump sum of £38,000 after retiring from his job with South Tyneside Council.
But the couple, of Owen Drive, West Boldon, claimed they only had between £700 and £800 in savings while claiming more than £42,000 in benefits between 2008 and 2013.
They actually had £171,000 of savings squirrelled away in their bank at the time, the court heard.
When they were arrested and interviewed in August last year, Wells said: “Hands up, I have been caught. I have been an idiot, a fraudster, whatever you are going to call it.”
Newcastle Crown Court heard that, between July 2009 and May last year, the couple wrongly claimed £41,638 in pension credit, housing benefit and council tax.
Marshall also claimed £591 in housing benefit and council tax benefit between September 20, 2008, and December 22, 2008, by claiming she was living as a single person despite residing with Wells.
Lee Fish, prosecuting, said: “Alfred Wells claimed pension credit between July 2009 and May 2013 for both himself and his partner on the basis that they were both over 60, had no real income and they had savings below the allowable limit.
“As a result of that, he was also able to claim housing benefit and council tax benefit.
“They declared they only had £700 to £800 worth of savings when they had £171,000 at their disposal.”
That cash came from Wells’s Lotto win in 2008 and a £38,000 pay-off he picked up after retiring from work, he said.
He added: “Both defendants accepted that they had made these applications for benefits out of sheer greed.
“Wells accepted that what he had done was thoroughly dishonest.”
Wells pleaded guilty to two counts of benefit fraud, and Marshall admitted three counts on the same charge.
Jonathan Cousins, defending, said Wells is in ill health, being in remission after being diagnosed with throat cancer in 2010.
He said: “Wells rues the day he won the lottery. It has brought him a number of problems.
“He had never claimed any benefit until he won the lottery. That is also the case for Marshall.
“When he won the money, he gave a significant proportion to charity and to his family and invested a large amount of it. He lived off the remainder.
“What they both did was claim benefits, and they both deeply regret that. They recognise that it was wrong, and they are thoroughly remorseful.
“The money has been repaid, and that includes the cost of the investigation and the benefits they claimed.
“I think it’s unlikely that you will see either defendant before the criminal courts again.”
Neither Wells nor Marshall has any previous convictions, the court heard.
Judge Debbie Sherwin told the pair: “It is a sad day when two people who have never been in trouble before find themselves before the court for serious offences.
“You came into a large sum of money. You just got greedy.”
Wells and Marshall were given eight-month jail sentences suspended for two years. They were also ordered to carry out 100 hours’ unpaid work each and to pay £170 costs.