South Tyneside £44,000 benefits cheat snared after incriminating Facebook posts

Newcastle Crown Court.
Newcastle Crown Court.
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A South Tyneside benefits cheat was caught after making incriminating posts on social network Facebook.

Dominique Rooke, 29, claimed more than £44,000 in benefits which she was not entitled to, by failing to notify the Department of Work and Pensions that she was living with her partner.

Newcastle Crown Court heard her partner's wages would have affected how much she received, and that she regularly updated her Facebook cover picture, showing the pair together.

Now, the mum-of-two, who wrongly claimed income support, housing benefit and child tax credits between 2010 and 2014, has been spared an immediate prison sentence.

Rooke, of Oxford Crescent, Hebburn, was also claiming council tax benefit which she was not entitled to between 2010 and 2013.

The total amount of over payment was £44,122.27.

The court heard she started claiming benefits after the birth of one of her children, in 2010, and that her partner was named as the father on the birth certificate.

Claire Anderson, prosecuting, told the court how her partner had his vehicle registered to her address.

She also said Rooke was a regular user of Facebook and would change her cover photos to pictures of them together.

Ms Anderson said: "On numerous occasions his work vehicle was parked outside her address.

"He was seen outside the property at 6am in the morning in his boxer shorts.

"He was seen working on his transit van outside her property.

"She was not entitled to all of the benefits she had received."

Rooke admitted two counts of failing to notify a change of circumstances affecting benefits and one count of fraud.

The court heard how she did not plead guilty to the offences until the day of her trial.

Jonathan Devlin, defending, said: "The couple are no longer in a relationship and she has to live with the consequences of making these claims over a substantial period of time.

"It is not alleged that these offences were fraudulent from the outset."

Rooke sobbed in the dock as The judge, Recorder Simon Jackson QC, told her: "These offences replicate your criminal conduct between September 2010 and March 2014, over which period you deprived the benefit agency's of just over £44,000.

"I accept, from the prosecution and from Mr Devlin, that this was not dishonest from the outset, but was dishonest fairly soon there following the birth of another child.

"You will have realised that you were claiming benefits you were not entitled to.

"You stand there tearful now, your tears are now well overdue.

"You are the mother of two young children and now a single parent having been abandoned by your former partner."

Recorder Jackson QC sentenced Dickson to nine months in prison suspended for 18 months.

He also ordered her to complete 225 hours unpaid work and abide by an electronically monitored curfew for three months.