DWP officer sentenced for benefits fraud
A woman who worked for the Department of Work and Pensions has been sentenced for diverting benefits from claimants into her own bank account.
The Crown Prosecution Service said that Kristy Merner, 44 of Crosby, Liverpool, diverted 20 payments of Employment Support Allowance meant for genuine claimants into her own bank account.
The total amount unlawfully obtained was £7,621.34. In her role at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) she had access to claimants’ bank accounts and this enabled her to divert their benefits.
A criminal investigation was begun by the DWP’s Fraud and Error Service. Ms Merner was interviewed under caution at Wirral Police Station on 20 December 2022 and Crosby Police Station on 15 March 2023.
In a prepared statement she said she was truly sorry for what she had done and explained that she’d had a gambling addiction since 2019 which had spiralled out of control.
On 20 August 2023 at Sefton Magistrates’ Court she pleaded guilty to 20 counts of Fraud and on 18 October 2023 at Liverpool Crown Court, she was given a 12-month jail term, suspended for 18 months. She must carry out 150 hours of unpaid work, 20 days of a rehabilitation activity and engage with a six-month programme to address her issues.
Senior Crown Prosecutor George Ward, of CPS Mersey Cheshire’s Fraud Unit, said: “Kristy Merner is a woman of previous good character whose gambling addiction has led her into criminality.
“The benefits she diverted were for claimants who were considered especially vulnerable because of their physical and mental health problems and they had advocates looking after their bank accounts.
“Ms Merner abused her position of trust to take this money. She has reimbursed all of the money that she stole and it is clear she regrets what she did.
“The benefits system exists to help some of the most vulnerable people in society and there are many demands on it. This kind of fraud takes money away from them and is criminal. The Crown Prosecution Service works with the Police and other Government agencies to bring these fraudsters to justice."