Mother pleads guilty to making false disability claims

|News, Fraud and economic crime

A woman who claimed her son was living in the loft when he’d moved to the Philippines has pleaded guilty to dishonestly claiming thousands of pounds of benefits for him.

The Crown Prosecution Service said June Roberts, 65, from St Helens, had dishonestly claimed £15,018 in Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and Personal Independence Payments (PIP) on behalf of her son, Paul Roberts.

Ms Roberts, acting as the Appointee for her son, made false claims on his behalf in 2016. Paul was said to be unable to work through ill-health and had severe mobility difficulties and significant care needs. His ESA and PIP benefits were paid direct into his bank account.

In May 2017 Paul booked a flight to the Philippines and never came back. He is believed to have married there.

June Roberts failed to report that Paul Roberts had left and in a phone call review of his benefits in July 2017, she told the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP)  he was unable to come to the phone because he was hiding in the loft.

Paul continued to make regular withdrawals of cash from within the Philippines until the DWP were alerted to a possible fraud and stopped his benefits.

On 9 November 2018, Ms Roberts was interviewed by police and asked if she knew her son had moved to the Philippines seven months before.

She replied: “Not really. Because Paul lives at home, he's at home now”. On further questioning she conceded he may have been on holiday there for three or four weeks. She was asked whether he had married while he was there and eventually admitted that he had.

The officer asked why she hadn't told a DWP official in an interview in July that her son was in the Philippines. She said: “I can't remember. I honestly thought he was upstairs in the loft ‘cos I shouted down to him to answer the phone.”

The officer went on to point out that she had contested a rejected claim for PIP in 2017, saying how severe her son's health problems were. He was not in the country at the time.

She admitted this was dishonest and today (20 August 2019) at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court, pleaded guilty to a charge of dishonestly making a false statement to obtain a benefit and dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances affecting entitlement to social security benefit.

Simon Tunnicliffe of the CPS Mersey-Cheshire Fraud Unit said: “June Roberts was responsible for a substantial fraud and consistently failed to inform the DWP of the true circumstances.

“Her claims to have told her son to come down from the loft to answer the phone when he was in fact in the Philippines were ludicrous. At that point he had been away for seven months. He had been withdrawing cash from the Philippines and it was clear his mother was helping him.

“She had contested a rejected PIP claim on the basis that Paul could not move about at all. He was living in another continent.

“As Paul’s Appointee, she was responsible for letting the authorities know if his circumstances changed. She did not and may never have done so if the authorities had not caught up with her.

“This is public money, there are many demands on it and cases like this could affect the many people who really need the support of the state to survive.”

June Roberts will be sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court on 17 September 2019. A Proceeds of Crime timetable will also be set to recoup the money that was dishonestly claimed.

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