Judge tells £35,000 female benefit fraudster: 'You should be ashamed of yourself.'
A JUDGE slammed a benefit fraudster who conned nearly £35,000 from the taxpayer, saying ‘you should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself’, whilst adding: ‘You took money from people who need it.’
Judge Richard Shepherd warned Sharon Underwood, 55, he would send her straight to prison if she did not comply with an order to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work after being spared jail.
Underwood was given a nine-month suspended sentence for 18 months after scamming the benefit system out of £34,873.35 between 2012-18 in income support benefit.
The fraudster was profiting around £6,000 a year from the false declaration over the seven years she was pocketing the cash.
But it was claimed at Portsmouth Crown Court she had now paid back the money after coming into inheritance from her mother who had died.
Seeking clarification over whether the money had definitely been paid back, judge Shepherd told the court he wanted Underwood to take the witness box to establish the truth.
He warned the defendant: ‘If you are telling lies you will be done for perjury.’
Mark Kessler, for the defence, asked for the Crown to confirm the position rather than Underwood take the stand - but the judge dismissed the suggestion and insisted on the defendant giving evidence on oath.
Once on the stand Underwood, who admitted two counts of dishonestly obtaining benefits, confirmed she had paid the money back. ‘If you are telling me lies you will get into a lot of trouble,’ the judge said.
The court heard a cheque had been issued on August 18.
Judge Shepherd, summing up, told Underwood: ‘The money you stole could have been used for someone else.
‘There are many needy and worthy people who need help and you stole money from the system. You took money from people who need it.’
He then sentenced Underwood, of Highfield Road, Bognor Regis. She was also told to pay £500 costs.
‘You stole from the community and now it is your job to pay back the community by carrying out unpaid work,’ the judge said.
‘I want you to be the first to arrive and last to leave (during unpaid work) and while you are there I want you to work harder than anyone else.
‘If I receive negative reports and hear you are in breach I will send you to prison.’
As Underwood was preparing to leave the dock, judge Shepherd added: ‘You should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself.’