A SINGLE mum has been given a 12-month conditional discharge by magistrates after admitting four counts of benefit fraud.
Linda Davies, 42 - who was also ordered to pay compensation and costs totalling nearly £6,000 - pleaded guilty to failing to tell the Inland Revenue that she had more than £8,000 in savings when she applied for working family tax credits between July 2000 and Jan-uary 2002.
Miss Clare Thomas, prosecuting for the Inland Revenue, said people claiming tax credits had to declare any savings over £3,000, as this could affect how much money they were awarded.
But she said Davies, of Buttermere Drive, Oswaldtwistle, had not declared her two savings accounts - a TESSA containing £3,000 and a PEP containing £6,000 - on four separate applications, and she was awarded a total of over £5,000 in credits.
The fraud first came to light in January this year and Davies,a clerical assistant at the Department of Work and Pensions, was arrested at her home in a "high-profile" operation involving three or four police cars, four police officers and two Inland Revenue officers.
Mr Peter King, defending, said the £6,000 in the PEP account had been loaned to Davies by a friend so that she could refurbish her home in Wythenshawe, Manchester.
He said that Davies, who had no previous convictions, did contact the Inland Revenue to ask whether this money should be declared on her application, but was told that as it did not belong to her, she did not have to declare it.
Mr King said: "She now accepts that the advice she was given was not correct. She had not fully appreciated initially that this money truly belonged to her.
"The reality is that the Inland Revenue takes the view that the money in the loan account, the PEP, is her money and is for her own use.
"She also had a TESSA account in which she had her own money that was opened with the sum of £3,000. It is only capital over £3,000 that affects entitlement to tax credits.
"She did not have regard to the fact that interest would have been applied to that account, which would have taken it over £3,000."
He added: "These matters are of enormous regret to her and the price she pays is the loss of her good repute. This is not a lady who undertook this enterprise for greed purposes.
"She undertook what she did because she understood that she was entitled to Working Family Tax Credits on the basis that she was a single mother, working part-time with a child to look after."
Magistrate Mr William Riley ordered Davies to pay compensation of £5,738.20 and costs of £250.