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Benefits cheat caught out by Facebook family holiday photos

Elizabeth Hughes falsely claimed to have been separated from her husband Arthur for three years.

Facebook: Hughes referred to her 'bestest husband' while claiming to be single.
Facebook: Hughes referred to her 'bestest husband' while claiming to be single.

A fraudster who scammed £32,000 in benefits while claiming to be a single mother was caught out after posting images of family holidays on Facebook.

Elizabeth Hughes, of Fintry Crescent, Dundee, told the Department for Work and Pensions she had broken up with husband Arthur in January 2010.

She kept up her lie until 2013 when she told the authority they had reconciled.

In reality they had been living as husband and wife under the same roof the entire time, with Hughes claiming benefits as a single parent over the three years.

Hughes, a childminder, claimed she had been struggling with financial issues throughout and had been using the money to cover debts.

Investigators found debits from her bank accounts to travel firms and Facebook images of Hughes, her husband and children on foreign holidays.

Fiscal depute Vicki Bell told Dundee Sheriff Court on Wednesday: "She claimed tax credits in 2009 and then in August of that year informed DWP she and her husband had separated.

"She confirmed that position over the next three years before declaring they had reconciled in 2013. An investigation revealed there had never been a separation.

"Joint bank accounts operated with his salary being paid in and joint expenses going out. Holiday payments, TV licence and other household expenses were paid jointly."

The 36-year-old pleaded guilty on indictment to a charge under the Tax Credits Act.

Ms Bell told the court Hughes' husband had also told DWP officials in an interview that the pair had only split for a matter of months in 2009.

She said: "Her [Hughes'] Facebook page had a photo of them on holiday together during the period of the claim.

"There was also a post on Facebook saying he was 'the bestest husband' posted during the period of the claim that she was single. Other records showed his address had never changed.

"When interviewed she said she had not given the true position due to financial problems they were having." 

Ms Bell added: "Her husband was interviewed and initially said they had been separated in 2009 but only reconciled late in 2012.

"But at the end of the interview he said they had only been separated for three or four months in 2009. 

"He admitted he knew the accused had made a single persons tax credit claims and that it was used to alleviate debts."

The court heard none of the money has been repaid to the tax authority.

Defence solicitor Larry Flynn said he would give his plea in mitigation at a later sentencing hearing.

Sheriff Alastair Carmichael deferred sentence until next month for social work background reports and released Hughes on bail meantime.

He said: "You must cooperate with the preparation of these reports."

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