Mother sentenced for making false disability claims for her son who was in the Philippines
A woman who claimed her son was living in the loft when he had moved to the Philippines has been sentenced for 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’d been married while he was there and eventually admitted that he had.
The officer asked why she had not 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 pleaded guilty at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court on 20 August 2019 to dishonestly making a false statement to obtain a benefit and dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances affecting entitlement to social security benefit. At Liverpool Crown Court on 27 September 2019, she was given a 12-month community order and ordered to do 180 hours of unpaid work in the community.
Simon Tunnicliffe, for the CPS, 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, frankly, ludicrous. At that point he had been away for two 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 do so 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. A timetable has been set to recoup the money that was dishonestly claimed as the proceeds of crime”.
Notes to editors
- Simon Tunnicliffe is a Senior Crown Prosecutor with the CPS Mersey-Cheshire Fraud Unit