A Churchdown woman with 13 different medical problems has avoided jail despite cheating the State out of nearly £40,000.
At Gloucester Crown Court Melanie Weinzweig, 55, admitted two charges of failing to notify the Department of Work and Pensions that she was working and earning more than the limit for receiving incapacity benefit and employment and support allowance.
Prosecutor Caighli Taylor said Weinzweig, of Blacksmiths Lane, Churchdown, had been legitimately receiving the benefits from 1993 because of her poor health. But she returned to work, initially as a form of therapy, and in 2008 started to earn more than the limit for allowances.
She did not notify her higher income to the DWP and over the next six years she over-claimed by a total of £39,774.
However, said the prosecutor, since being charged Weinzweig has managed to repay the entire amount.
Defence solicitor Sabhia Pathan said Weinzweig’s husband had allowed her to use a £30,000 lump sum from his pension towards repayment to the DWP and she had raised the rest of the money on a loan.
“They have moved heaven and earth to be able to clear this debt,” Ms Pathan said.
“Nobody is now out of pocket.”
The solicitor handed Judge Jamie Tabor QC a list of Weinzweig’s illnesses, saying she did not want to reveal them in open court.
She had been claiming benefits from 1993 but in 2002 she had a mentor appointed to her to help get her working again, said Ms Pathan.
She reached a point where she was earning too much to qualify for benefits any longer and she admitted that she had dishonestly kept on claiming.
As well as her own health problems she had also faced other health issues in the family and the death of her mother, Ms Pathan added.
Judge Tabor told Weinzweig: “When you first made these claims they were perfectly proper and genuine. But as time went by your earnings went up. Although your illnesses did not go away your earnings became over and above what you were allowed to earn in relation to benefits.
“You are not a well lady. You have detailed to me at least 13 problems that you have with your health, some really unpleasant indeed. It is a bit of a surprise that you have managed to work as much as you did.
“But this was dishonest. You knew you were claiming money you shouldn’t have and by doing so you made it that bit more difficult for others who qualified for benefits to be paid them.”
He sentenced her to six months jail suspended for two years.
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