Barby woman made almost £275,000 from fraudulent benefit claims - and used the money to pay for holidays and to send her children to private schools
She has been jailed for two-and-a-half years after using the identities of 19 other people, some of whom she knew lived abroad, to make her claims
A woman made almost £275,000 from fraudulent benefit claims over a six-year period - and used the money to pay for holidays and to send her children to private schools.
Lucy Parker, the wife of the National Farmers Union’s head of tax, used the identities of 19 other people, some of whom she knew lived abroad, to make her claims.
She supported the claims with forged documents including bogus doctor’s letters and tenancy agreements, and had a hoard of ‘burner phones’ as contact numbers for her false identities.
But Parker (56), who now lives in Barby but lived in Stratford at the time of her ‘systematic fraud,’ was caught after a Job Centre employee recognised her as having made claims in two different names.
Parker was jailed for two-and-a-half years by a judge at Warwick Crown Court after pleading guilty to nine charges of fraud.
Prosecutor Jamie Scott said that over a period of six-and-a-half years between April 2012 and August 2018 Parker made fraudulent claims for Job Seeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit totalling just over £274,900.
She did so using a total of 19 false identities, and Judge Anthony Potter observed: “A number were individuals she knew, and knew to have moved abroad in some instances, so would not be likely to have any contact with the benefit agency.”
Although Parker’s husband was the main bread-winner, she had worked in the admin department at Warwick University and the social care department at Warwickshire County Council.
“Her family lived a comfortable middle-class lifestyle, with holidays to far-flung places such as South Africa and Japan.”
Suspicions arose when Parker, posing as Louise Clarke, went to a job centre claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance and a member of staff recognised her as having made a claim in another name.
A Department for Work and Pensions investigation which followed included obtaining CCTV from banks which showed Parker withdrawing money from accounts she had set up in different names.
And Mr Scott said it was an aggravating feature that they were real people whose birth and marriage certificates Parker had obtained to support her use of their identities.
She had also created false hospital and GP’s letters purporting to show claimants had to undergo procedures including knee operations and hysterectomies.
The first false claims were in the name of Dianne Smith who supposedly had the tenancy of a property in Tisdale Rise, Kenilworth, which had in fact been rented by Parker.
Using that identity and an account in that name, Parker then obtained the birth and marriage certificates of other people whose names she went on to use, providing a variety of addresses for them, some of which turned out to be derelict buildings.
Following an eight-month surveillance operation by DWP investigators, Parker’s home was searched, and a large number of fake and blank documents were found, together with a USB stick on which she had false references and tenancy agreements.
At least seven cheap pay-as-you-go ‘burner’ phones were found, each with details on the back of the number and the false claimant for which it was used as a contact number.
When she was first interviewed Parker lied, denying any knowledge of the frauds and saying she rented the house in Tisdale Rise to a friend and the next day, having asked for an adjournment to contact a solicitor, she declined to answer questions.
It was only when she was interviewed again some months later that she confessed in a prepared statement, added Mr Scott, who said the offending had been sophisticated and had involved significant planning.
But Kevin Hegarty QC, defending, argued: “It involved repeating the same exercise over and over again, and of all the computer details gathered from the house, nothing was encrypted.
“The offending plainly had to have planning, but in my submission it is not significant to that degree. Once this system was in place, the offending was simply repeated.”
Mr Hegarty said Parker had previously led ‘a blameless life,’ and since the offences came to light the family home has been sold and she has deposited her share into a bank account.
“Of course, it was always open to her not to send her children to a fee-paying school, but such was her devotion to her children that she could not accept that as a way forward.
“She was faced with that difficulty which she answered in a wholly wrong way,” said Mr Hegarty, who suggested that Parker could be dealt with by a suspended sentence.
But jailing Parker, Judge Potter told her: “This was not a moment of madness on your part, but sustained criminality over a period not of months but many years.
“What you did was to make a large number of false claims, and you were paid as a result just shy of £275,000.
“You were someone who has worked for Warwickshire County Council in social care, well knowing the strain the public services are always under, but in particular were under at that time. You effectively stole money from the public purse.
“You were living, if not a luxurious lifestyle, a very comfortable lifestyle, and you owned your home outright and your children were sent to public school.
“Yours was sophisticated offending. The way you conducted these frauds involved a good deal of thought and planning. It was a highly successful fraud, and it netted you a substantial sum of money.”