A MOTHER-of-four has been jailed for a year for defrauding taxpayers of almost £40,000 in benefits cash.
Gemma Lumsden admitted claiming working tax credits and child tax credits she was not entitled to for nearly nine years.
She failed to tell officials at the Department for Work and Pensions about her husband Steven’s earnings and claimed they did not even live together.
Lumsden, 29, told detectives investigating that case that she was paying off massive debts.
Lindsey Armstrong, prosecuting, said Lumsden had attended the police interview voluntarily but had been unhelpful.
Miss Armstrong said: “There were inconsistencies in relation to utility bills relating to her partner.”
Lumsden, of Mallace Avenue, Armadale, earlier pleaded guilty to cheating the benefits system.
Kate Fabian, defending, said the accused’s relationship with her husband was turbulent and they had spent frequent periods apart.
She said Lumsden’s benefits claims had started off as genuine but she had not informed officials of changes in her circumstances.
She said: “Effectively, Miss Lumsden buried her head in the sand and turned a blind eye to the consequences in order to focus on her problems then and there.”
Sheriff Susan Craig said only a custodial sentence was appropriate given the amount of money involved and the length of time the fraud had lasted.
She told Lumsden: “Clearly this is a very anxious matter both for the court, for you and for your family of young children.
“I have to balance the public interest there is in ensuring that the benefits system set up to help all those who need it is not fraudulently abused and you have pleaded guilty to knowingly making fraudulent claims over a period of several years.
“That’s resulted in a loss to the state of £39,000.
“This level of claim is towards the upper level of the range, which would certainly result in custody.”
The UK government estimates that £1.2 billion is claimed by benefits cheats each year, with tax credits fraud worth a further £380 million.
Last September, mother-of-two Jennifer Sutherland, 34, wept in the dock after she admitted cheating taxpayers out of £13,000 in illegal benefit claims. But she dodged a jail sentence by using her mother’s pension fund to repay the cash.
Sutherland, of Ewart Avenue, Armadale, was instead ordered to complete 220 hours of unpaid work.
A month later, the Evening News revealed that Edinburgh was one of three places to be targeted in a benefits fraud crackdown by the Department of Work and Pensions.
The Capital, along with Fife and West Dunbartonshire, is believed to be one of the worst areas north of the Border for the crime.