A WOMAN filled in benefits claims forms making no reference to living with her husband of only a few weeks.
Claire Louise Chapplow went on to receive £32,360 in combined benefits over the following three years and eight months to which she was not entitled.
Durham Crown Court heard that when the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) and Durham County Council began looking into her benefit claims history she was unco-operative, failing to meet appointments to be interviewed by investigators.
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Despite a plea for leniency made on behalf of the 28-year-old the mother-of-three, she was today (Monday April 14) jailed for six months.
Chapplow, of Third Avenue, Chester-le-Street, who has no previous convictions, admitted two counts of benefit fraud.
Adam Mugliston, prosecuting, said she had been in a relationship with her now husband for a number of years, before their marriage in September 2009.
But when she filled in claims forms in October and November that year, she made no reference to living with her husband.
Mr Mugliston told the court information was passed anonymously to the DWP alleging she was living with her husband, who was working and using the Third Avenue address.
It was only at the fourth attempt that Chapplow attended for an interview and denied that her husband had been living with her, as they had not been in a relationship since June 2009, despite them being married months later.
She said he lived at a Birtley caravan park, but Mr Mugliston said checks with the site owners discovered they had no reference to him being a resident.
Stuart Graham, for Chapplow, said her husband was not living at home seven nights a week, but it was conceded he contributed to some household expenditure.
“She realises she should have told the authorities he was there more than she did.”
Mr Graham said deductions will now be made from any benefits received by Chapplow, but it will not be until 2037 that the entire sum will be repaid.
He added that she has found work at a fast food restaurant chain and handed a reference from the company to the court.
Jailing her, Judge Peter Kelson told Chapplow: “You chose to lie on two forms.
“That dishonesty is at the root of this case.
“Over nearly four years you received £32,360 to which you weren’t entitled and tried to thwart attempts to have this case prosecuted.
“I have in mind the need to deter the public from behaving like you did.
“If every benefit claimant tried to milk the system of £32,000 the country would be in a terrible state.”
Chapplow must also pay a statutory surcharge on release from prison.