A pensioner Peggy Scaum who committed benefit fraud by claiming benefits over a ten year period while keeping silent about her substantial savings has been jailed.
The 65 year old York pensioner pocketed £56,000 while her savings had reached £15,000 in various accounts when a City of York Council investigation discovered her swindling.
The pensioner, of Burton Green, Clifton - where she lived with her working partner will start her nine month prison sentence after she admitted four benefit fraud charges, despite having so far repaid about £13,000.
The council said the benefit system was only abused by “a few”, but those who did this faced prison.
Sentencing Scaum at York Crown Court, Recorder Bryan Cox QC said that it this was intended not just to punish her but to send out a clear message to others who might be inclined to commit offences of this type.
When told Scaum had not used the money for “high-living” but holidayed in Spain every year, the judge said that many would believe those on benefits should not be enjoying such holidays.
Scaum broke down following the sentencing, screaming that she could not go to the prison as it would kill her.
Michael Bosomworth, prosecuting, said Scaum fraudulently claimed £56,191 in various benefits between February 2001 and May 2011.
At one point, her Santander bank account alone contained £10,192.
She asserted that she was receiving little financial support from her partner, but to accumulate savings like that simply by saving her own benefits were just incredible, the prosecutor said.
Her lifestyle was comfortable, but it would be wrong to say excessive or extravagant. She said she had not spent the money on high-living and intended to bequeath it to relatives.
Benefit fraud lawyer defending Scaum, said her partner made very little contribution to their household, and the financial pressures she felt she was under caused her to make these claims and effectively bury her head in the sand.
The lawyer added that her client was very sorry for what she had done and was paying back and a substantial amount has been paid and she was a lady of previously good character and knows that she is now tarnished and lost forever.