A benefit cheat who pocketed more than £100,000 over a five-year period could avoid a jail sentence, a court heard.
Agnieszka Pryzbylska of Crosley Grove, Accrington, ‘fraudulently’ claimed housing and council tax benefit and tax credits after failing to disclose to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and Hyndburn Council that she was ‘maintaining a common household’ with her husband.
Burnley Crown Court heard how the mum-of-three was overpaid £91,411 in tax credits from HMRC between April 2011 and August 2016, and £14,722 in housing and council tax benefit from the council between July 2012 and February 2016.
Pryzbylska, 38, pleaded guilty to two counts of benefit fraud and was bailed to attend court for sentence on January 11.
Philip Holden, defending, said the Pryzbylska is working full-time and earns around £1,200 a month. He told the court: “The defendant is hitherto of good character. She is a working single mother and has three children.
“I recognise that there’s a lot money concerned here over a period of time.
“She is no longer on benefits. She is still working. HMRC have not yet clawed back the money. The local council are deducting at £60 per month from her current income to compensate their loss. Ironically she will be entitled to apply again for tax credits and that will no doubt be at a reduced rate at some stage in the future.”
When asked by Mr Holden to give an indication as to the likely sentence, Judge Beverley Lunt said she ‘cannot say’ whether a jail sentence could be suspended.
She told the court: “The difficulty is that it’s such a lot of money, it’s over a five-year period and it’s all money out of the public purse.
“In my judgement at its highest it is going to start at three years and she would of course get full credit, which would at least bring it down at its highest to two years.
“I cannot say whether that sentence would be suspended or not because it’s so much money.
“If there is a chance of both HMRC and the council getting the money back then that is a factor to take into account.
“If there was then a favourable report about her telling me about her circumstances and I heard evidence about her income then I would look upon those features very favourably indeed.”