Benefits clerk who checked bogus claims cheated tax-payer out of £50,000 to pay off debts

Reposted from Mirror on line

Caroline Bryon
Cheat: Caroline Bryon stole benefits when it was her job to stop others doing the same

A benefits clerk employed to check for bogus claims cheated £50,000 in state handouts after running up debts with payday lender Wonga.

Caroline Bryon, of Bayley Close, Hyde, worked for the Department of Work and Pensions, checking that claims for tax credits were genuine.

But she was secretly fiddling working tax credits and child tax credits herself, theManchester Evening News reports.

Manchester Crown Court heard mum-of-two Bryon, 34, lied about her childcare costs – claiming they were double what they were – and lied about paying for childcare even when she was on maternity leave.

She also hid the fact that she was living with a partner who was working, racking up £50,344 in overpayments in just two years.

After Bryon’s own claims came under scrutiny from her employers she was sacked, arrested, and pleaded guilty to four charges of fraud by false representation between 2009 and 2011.

But she was spared jail after her defence barrister said locking her up would be ‘catastrophic’ for her two children.

He said her offences happened because she had been drinking heavily, had run up debts to payday lenders, and needed her own means after starting a relationship with a new man.

Manchester Crown Court
Benefits Cheat: Manchester Crown Court heard that a woman paid to find benefits cheats cheated the system herself

Jonathan Rogers, prosecuting, said: “The defendant worked for the DWP, processing and checking claims for exactly the type of benefit she was overpaid.

“One of her childcare providers stated that she asked her to say she had paid her almost double what she had in fact in paid and to backdate it. (Bryon) will have known what checks might be carried out because she carried them out herself.”

Andrew Evans, defending, argued there was ‘no evidence’ she had used her knowledge of the system for personal gain.

“A trail of documents and emails sent from her work account revealed she was living with her new partner, and showed there was’ no thought or sophistication whatsoever’ to her offence, he added.

“The reason why a 34-year-old lady sits in this court for the first time stem from debt – we have the name Wonga appearing predominantly – we have interest rates of 4000 per cent, we have a debt spiral”, Mr Evans added.

She was sentenced to 14 months, suspended for two years, with 200 hours unpaid work and a requirement to attend a women’s project.

Recorder Andrew Thomas QC said her offence was ‘aggravated’ by her job, and that she had cheated her ‘colleagues, friends and neighbours – decent people who work hard and have to pay taxes.’

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