A HORNDEAN couple have narrowly avoided going to jail after they falsely claimed almost £69,500 in benefits.
Christine Palmer, 43, and Ian Palmer, 48, of Merchistoun Road, Horndean, lied to East Hampshire District Council.
They gave false information about where they lived and the nature of their relationship, in order to gain thousands of pounds in housing and council tax benefit.
Between September 2006, and August 2011, Christine received £23,906 in housing benefits, £4,456 in council tax benefits, and £41,070 of income support – a total of £69,433.64.
She and her husband falsely claimed they were living in friend Thomas Dufty’s property in Alton, and claimed benefits, when in fact they had been living in Basingstoke.
The pair, who got married in 2008, also claimed Ian was Christine’s second cousin and carer, in order to attract further benefits.
In March 2008, Christine moved to Merchistoun Road, and was joined there by her husband.
However, she continued to maintain she was living alone and received further benefits, to which she was not entitled.
At Winchester Crown Court, Christine Palmer received a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.
Ian Palmer was sentenced to 12 weeks imprisonment, suspended for two years.
They were also both given a two-year supervision order.
Sue Hall, senior investigations officer at the district council, said: ‘This fraud was a despicable waste of welfare benefit which spanned a considerable period of time.
‘It came to light as a result of a routine visit when Palmer claimed in Merchistoun Road.
‘The benefits team at East Hampshire remain committed to ensuring that benefit is administered to those genuinely entitled to it.’
Thomas Dufty, 61, of Alton, signed a false tenancy agreement in order to facilitate the couple’s fraud, which resulted in his council tax being paid by the council.
Dufty was found guilty, fined £400 and was ordered to pay £350 towards prosecution costs.