Glamourous Granny who falsely claimed £40,000 caught out by holiday snaps
A 54 year old grandmother with a taste for the finer things in life appeared at Newport Crown Court last week charged with defrauding the benefits system to the tune of more than £41,000 over the course of five years.
She spent the money on luxurious holidays and shared photographs of her travels on social media – but it was not just her Facebook friends who were watching. DWP investigators used the social media posts as a core part of their case.
Geraldine Thomas has been sharing her home in Wales “on and off” with her partner Raymond Adams for almost 20 years. The couple started their relationship at the turn of the millennium, when Thomas was in her mid-30s. Thomas had told the DWP that the relationship was more “off” than “on,” and had been claiming income support, housing benefit, employment support and a council tax reduction, all on the basis of being a single person living alone.
However, when she started posting photos of luxurious travel trips to Egypt on her social media page, the effect was to draw the attention and suspicion of the Department of Work and Pensions. They launched an investigation, examining the couple’s online holiday snaps, and from there, dug deeper into their personal circumstances.
It emerged that Thomas and Adams had rekindled their relationship back in 2011, and had been living together “as a married couple” according to the definition laid down in the benefits system. Adams and Thomas lived in Thomas’s house together, and Adams contributed financially to the household.
Thomas appeared at Newport Crown Court last month and pled guilty to three counts of benefit fraud. Court recorder Patrick Harrington QC acknowledged that Raymond Adams was the main instigator of the fraud – however he was not the one on trial. Mr Harrington told Thomas: “You were not the instigator of this but you continued the relationship and you continued claiming the money for a very long time.” He also said there was no doubt as to exactly what the money had been spent on – expensive holidays.
He sentenced Thomas to a 12 month suspended prison sentence. However, she still faces a further proceeds of crime hearing, in which repayment obligations will be decided.
DWP Fraud Leader Donna James described the case as a “blatant act of fraud” and commented that in addition to seeking recovery of overpayments, the DWP always looks at how the money has been spent and any proceeds or assets that it has been used to acquire.
Ashamed and embarrassed
According to defending solicitor Kathryn Lane, Thomas is “thoroughly ashamed and embarrassed” about the whole affair. However, that cut little ice during the hearing, as one photograph after another was shared with the entire court.
Clearly, the case of Geraldine Thomas is one in which someone has intentionally made a false claim and used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle. Anyone who is doing battle with the benefits system to keep a roof over their head and food on the table will probably have little sympathy.
It does, however, raise an interesting point. The court acknowledged that her partner was the “brains” behind the scam, yet as he had not made a claim, he faced no consequences whatsoever.
At Hylton Potts, we know that there are two sides to every story. We don’t sit in judgement, so if you are under investigation by the DWP for any reason, get in touch with us and you will have an ally by your side to see you through to the best possible solution. You can call us on 020 7381 8111, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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