A benefit cheat who stole nearly £22,000 while failing to tell authorities that she and her husband were earning thousands of pounds trading on eBay has avoided prison.
Patricia Jackson, 42, of Fishwick Parade, Preston, swindled £21,766.86 of taxpayers’ cash in income support, council tax benefit and housing benefit over a four-year spell.
Prosecutors said Jackson and her partner had made £6,090.57 trading on the online auction and shopping website.
But Preston Magistrates’ Court heard between September 30, 2008 and July 2, 2012 she “failed to promptly notify the Department for Work and Pensions of a change of circumstances”, which she knew would affect her entitlement to £11,926.41 of income support.
Between April 12, 2010 and April 9, 2012 Jackson falsely claimed £2,115.05 of council tax benefit. During the same period she cheated the public purse out of £7,725.40 of housing benefit by not informing Preston Council about the money she was making online.
Jackson pleaded not guilty to the offences on June 4, but changed her plea and admitted all three charges in an appearance on Thursday, August 1.
Magistrates handed her a two-year conditional discharge and told her to pay court costs of £85. Preston Council said Jackson would also have to pay back the money she stole.
A council spokesman said: “Benefit fraud is a crime and the council has a number of systems and checks in place to catch people abusing the system and we will take prosecutions to recover the money.
“It is simply not worth trying to defraud the system as you will be caught.”
Many people use internet sites such as eBay and car boot sales to sell unwanted personal possessions.
However, buying goods to re-sell as a business is treated differently and this activity plus any income generated must be declared when claiming means-tested benefits.
Both eBay and Amazon were ordered to surrender tens of thousands of members’ details to the taxman last year as part of a crackdown on online trading.