Woman falsely claims £70,000 – and spends it on cosmetic surgery
It’s a story being lapped up by the mass media, and is a headline writer’s dream – in fact, the BBC has imaginatively labelled her the Blackwood Boob Job Benefit Fraudster. But what is the real story behind the 41 year old mother of two from Wales?
Tammy Ann Gunter is a former student nurse, who lives in Blackwood, Wales, with her two children. She worked part time in a shop and garage to support herself and her children, and had no other income. At least, that was what she said when she submitted her application for tax credits.
It emerged, however, that Tammy Ann Gunter is also known as Tammy Ann Hart. Neil Hart is her husband and the father of her children, and they have been living together since 1997. The application was made in her maiden name, and Neil Hart lied about his home address to support her application.
In addition, Gunter made a false claim for student funding and an NHS bursary, claiming she lived alone when really, she was living with her husband.
According to prosecutors, the Harts spent the money on maintaining a lavish lifestyle, with frequent holidays to destinations such as Las Vegas and Florida. They also purchased a holiday home in the USA.
The most headline-grabbing aspect to the whole affair, however, was Gunter’s trip to Eastern Europe for cosmetic breast enhancement surgery.
The whole fraud came collapsing around the pair’s heads when Gunter forged a letter to the local council purporting to be from HMRC. Aside from suspicions over the letterhead, alarm bells rang even more loudly when council workers noticed the letter was full of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.
In total, Tammy Ann Gunter defrauded HMRC to the tune of more than £70,000. Both she and Neil Hart face custodial sentences, and she will have to repay over £23,000 following a separate Proceeds of Crime hearing. Tammy Ann Gunter was sentenced to two years in prison, while her husband faces a six month sentence for encouraging or assisting her in committing an offence.
Defending solicitor Byron Broadstock spoke of the couple’s tumultuous relationship, and said that the lavish lifestyle was their way of reconciling after their frequent disputes. He added that the plastic surgery was more for “psychological” than cosmetic reasons.
In handing down custodial sentences, Judge Peter Heywood was clearly unimpressed by these lines of defence. He told the the court: “That fraud occurred over a significant period of time. There was a degree of sophistication and planning involved”.
This is one of those cases of out and out fraud where few of us would have much sympathy, and that is reflected in the harsh sentencing of the court. However, it is worth keeping in mind that the case of Tammy Ann and Neil Hart is unusual in that it involves people who clearly set out with criminal intentions in mind.
At Hylton Potts, we work with people from all walks of life, who find themselves under investigation from the DWP. What they almost all have in common, however, is that they are not master criminals setting out to commit fraud for personal gain, expensive holidays or cosmetic surgery.
Usually, they are just everyday people in difficult circumstances who have either made a genuine error in their disclosures to HMRC or the DWP, or who, at worst, have been driven by circumstance into making a bad decision.
If you are facing investigation by the DWP or HMRC, the important thing is to get some help dealing with it, so give us a call on 020 7381 8111, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let a member of our team help you find the way to the best possible outcome.
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