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Convicted benefits fraud sentenced for failing to declare a £74,000 gambling win

|News, Fraud and economic crime

A convicted benefit fraud has been sentenced for continuing to claim Universal Credit, despite a £74,000 gambling win.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said that Sharon Meehan, 39, of Selkirk Grove in Wigan, had £74,336 paid into her bank account on 10 July 2019.

She had won the money gambling, but she did not tell the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) about the windfall and continued to claim Universal Credit.

The deception came just months after she had been sentenced at Bolton Crown Court on 20 March 2019 for benefit fraud and given a community order.

In that case she had, again, been claiming a variety of benefits, including tax credits and housing benefit, without declaring relevant information.

The CPS say Ms Meehan spent her gambling winnings at “an extraordinary rate”, on holidays, more gambling, spending sprees and payments to friends and relatives.

By October 2019, her bank balance was down to just £6,000, which included several Universal Credit payments.

In total, she is said to have been overpaid the benefit by £2,121.11.

When interviewed by financial investigators, Ms Meehan initially said that she had told the DWP she had stopped working after winning the money and thought her Universal Credit payments would then stop.

She later said she had meant to email the change of circumstances to the Department but had not “pressed send”.

Today, 2 December 2020 at Wigan and Leigh Magistrates’ Court, Ms Meehan pleaded guilty to Dishonestly Failing to Notify a Change of Circumstances Affecting Entitlement to Social Security Benefit.

She has been given a 12-month community order, must do 20 days of a Rehabilitation Activity, incorporating attending a Better Decision-Making course, will be subjected to a seven-week curfew and electronic tag, from 7pm to 7am, and must pay £85 costs and a £95 victim surcharge.

Senior Crown Prosecutor Rob Girvan, of the Crown Prosecution Service’s Fraud Unit, said: “Ms Meehan’s claim that, simply because she had stopped working, the DWP would know to stop her benefits, is just not plausible.

“She made no effort to tell the authorities that she had come into a £74,000 windfall. This is despite the fact that she had, just months before, been convicted of a similar benefit fraud.

“Ms Meehan said that a lot of her winnings went on paying her gambling debts and money owed to friends and relatives, but this does not mitigate the fact that she didn’t declare her substantial winnings.

“She clearly did not learn her lesson the first time around and has pleaded guilty to another offence of Fraud. This is another example of someone taking money from the public purse that is sorely needed elsewhere.”

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