Facebook catches out benefit cheat

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EVIDENCE found by investigators on Facebook helped to convict a £21,000 benefit fraud.

Claire Earith, 35, of Elderberry Road, Red Lodge, lied about living with boyfriend Christopher Fuller so she could continue to claim benefits .

Lauren Bond, prosecuting on behalf of Forest Heath District Council, told Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court that on November 8, 2008, Earith had made a claim, stating on it that she was living with Mr Fuller.

This claim was turned down but two weeks later Earith made a second claim in which she said she was a single parent looking after two children.

Investigators, tipped off by a member of the public, logged on to Facebook and found evidence that Mr Fuller had been living with her for the duration of the claim.

Further investigations showed that Mr Fuller’s salary was being paid into the same joint account as Earith’s benefits.

In total, Earith claimed £9,914.36 in Housing Benefit, £2,083.32 in Council Tax Benefit and £9,050.08 in Income Support from the Department of Work and Pensions.

Earith pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to notify the authorities of a change in circumstances affecting her entitlement to benefits and gave no comment in her defence.

She was ordered to do 180 hours’ unpaid work and pay costs of £525.

Mrs Bond told the court that arrangements were in place for Earith to repay the money she falsely claimed to Forest Heath Borough Council.

Presiding magistrate Meg Clibbon said: “This a very serious offence committed over a long period.

“Warnings were given to you and you signed declarations so the offences were knowingly committed.

“This was a deliberate evasion of the truth which only came to light after an investigation.

“A very large sum of money has come from the public purse which could have been spent on benefiting the public.”