A mother fiddled almost £14,000 in housing benefit by claiming her home was owned by a buy-to-let landlord rather than her ex-husband.
Hayley Jenkinson was left paying the mortgage on the family home when her husband Simon Carter left her and she devised the scam because she feared she and her two young children would be made homeless.
She invented an imaginary landlady called Christine Sutton and forged documents which she sent to the council in support of her housing benefit claim.
It resulted in her being paid £128.19 a week for two years and received a total of £13,844.52 before the council was tipped off and stopped the payments.
The house in Leewood Lane, Torquay, was eventually repossessed and she is now living with family and friends while her two children are living with her ex-husband.
Jenkinson, aged 37, of Nelson Close, Teignmouth, admitted two counts of benefit fraud and was jailed for six months, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to do 25 days of rehabilitation activities by Judge Peter Johnson at Exeter Crown Court.
He told her:”You pretended to have a tenancy at the house where you were living with your two young children. Your dishonesty continued for a little over two years.
“This essentially was a claim which was fraudulent from the outset and it went on for a considerable period of time.
“I take into account the circumstances which led to the offending. You were trying to keep a home for yourself and your children and there was to some extent a degree of desperation.”
Jenkinson has no assets and so there will not be an investigation under the proceeds of crime act. Torbay council will try to recover the money from future benefits.
Mr Rhys Jenkins, prosecuting, said the fraudulent claims were made between September 2016 and October 2018 and involved producing false documents claiming that she was paying rent to a woman called Christine Sutton.
Miss Bathsheba Cassel, defending, said Jenkinson was suffering from depression and anxiety after the break up of her marriage and was struggling to keep a roof over the head of herself and her two children.
The house was in her husband’s sole name because he owned it before they married and he allowed her to stay there on condition she paid the mortgage.
She was not working, had no income, and got into arrears. She feared she would lose her home and her children, which is what happened after the fraud was uncovered.