Couple who lived as man and wife with their three children jailed for housing benefit fraud
A man and woman who lived together and had three children together but claimed they were not a couple have been jailed for £108,754 of benefit fraud.
Melissa Ellis, 34 and Jonathan Lucas, 38, were the parents of three children and lived together as husband and wife from 2008 to 2017 at two successive properties in Liverpool. They also went on several holidays together which Lucas paid for, to America, Dubai and Portugal.
However, during that time, they claimed various benefits including Housing Benefit on the false basis that they were not a couple. Ellis claimed Housing Benefit as a tenant and then paid it to her partner, Lucas, a self-employed businessman, as her landlord and the property owner.
When Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) fraud investigators moved in on the couple in late summer 2017, surveillance showed they were living together at a luxurious property in St Mary’s Rd in Huyton.
Fraud investigators visited the four-bedroomed property on 10 October 2017. It was protected by security gates and on the driveway were a Jaguar car, a Mercedes, a Range Rover and a Transit van with a trailer.
The garage at the side of the house contained a lot of building tools and materials and a "J&L Landscaping" sign at the back. There were also four mountain bikes, a large scrambler bike and two smaller ones.
Ellis and Lucas were arrested at the scene. Lucas admitted to officers that there was also cash belonging to him in a safe in the loft. They found £35,000 and more money in the kitchen, along with some Mexican currency. In total they found £55,931 and $437.59 in Mexican Pesos.
The couple were taken to St Anne’s Street police station for questioning. Ellis was shown her applications for Housing Benefit and Income Support made from her previous address of 24 Inwood Rd in Garston and her current address at 1 St Mary’s Rd, all made as a single parent.
She said that she received the Housing Benefit and then paid it as rent to Lucas in cash. She admitted she had made false claims but said she did it because otherwise she would not have got the money.
Lucas claimed to live at 23 Troon Way in Abergele in North Wales but investigators found it to be frequently booked up as a holiday cottage with paying guests.
Melissa Ellis eventually pleaded guilty to two counts of making a dishonest representation to obtain benefit and three counts of dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances.
Jonathan Lucas pleaded guilty to two counts of encouraging or assisting the commission of an offence.
Today (17 January 2020) at Liverpool Crown Court, Ellis was jailed for two years and three months and Lucas was jailed for one year and nine months. A Proceeds of Crime timetable has also been set to recoup the falsely-claimed benefit for the Crown.
Maqsood Khan of CPS Mersey Cheshire's Fraud Unit, said: “Jonathan Lucas and Melissa Ellis are a pair of serial fraudsters who were falsely claiming a variety of benefits while living a very nice lifestyle indeed.
“The most that Jonathan Lucas would admit to was that Melissa Ellis was his ‘on-off girlfriend’ yet they were clearly living together as man and wife, bringing up their three children and going on expensive foreign holidays together.
“Lucas denied living at the house in St Mary’s Road but was shown the tenancy agreements for both that property and the house in Inwood Rd and confirmed he had completed them and then given them to Ellis knowing she would be using them for her Housing Benefit claim.
“He said he did not see what was wrong with him charging Ellis rent for living in the house even though his children were living there too. Nailing these two cheats has taken a lot of work but they eventually pleaded guilty and have now been sent to prison.
“The benefits system is there to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society. That clearly does not include Jonathan Lucas and Melissa Ellis.”