Benefit fraud: Married woman pretended she was single to claim £19,000

BENEFIT CHEAT ... Shelagh McCarthy.
BENEFIT CHEAT ... Shelagh McCarthy.

A WOMAN defrauded the benefits system out of more than £19,000 by claiming she was single when she was married, a court was told.

Shelagh McCarthy, 54, dishonestly received Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit and Employment Support Allowance between March, 2010 and April, 2013.

At South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court yesterday, she admitted two charges of dishonestly, failing to notify South Tyneside Council that she was married to Richard McCarthy while claiming Housing Benefit and Council Tax benefit, and making a false representation to obtain benefit from the Department for Work and Pensions.

McCarthy, 54, of Charles Street, Boldon Colliery, was sentenced to a six-month community order, including an electronically-tagged curfew from 7pm to 7am each day.

Additionally, she was ordered to pay a victims surcharge of £60 and court costs of £85.

Rebecca Laverick, prosecuting, said: “Mrs McCarthy has claimed a series of benefits that she would not have been entitled to, by stating that she was a single person when in fact she was married.

“A number of forms were sent to her to complete and on each occasion she completed the forms as a single person.

“The total overpayment was £19,020 which will be recovered by the DSS.

“She has conducted this over a significant period of time and there are a number of incidences when she has stated an obvious lie by saying that she was not married.”

Laura Johnson, defending, said: “The circumstances of this are that Mrs McCarthy was living in the North East and she then moved to Manchester to live with her husband.

“She later returned to the North East and made a claim for benefit. When she made that claim she didn’t state on that form that she was a married person.

“When the review forms came out she didn’t state that she was then married.

“She tells me that she wasn’t living any form of lavish lifestyle. It was essentially just to carry out her day-to-day living expenses.

“They were not going on flash holidays. She tells me that she essentially found herself in a cycle which she could not break.

“Mrs McCarthy is of previous good character and is someone who has been extremely unwell.

“In 2014 she was diagnosed with a lesion on her brain which has had a significant impact on her memory.

“She takes a significant amount of medication three times a day, and suffers from migraines and dizziness and walks with a stick.”