Oct 10, 2007, 9:24 pm
A Belfast woman who falsely claimed more than £40,000 (US$75,000) in benefits after she had won nearly £60,000 (US$110,000) playing the UK National Lottery has been spared jail.
In June 2000, Leanne Thompson, 29, from Bloomfield Parade, scooped £58,518, but failed to declare her change of circumstances to the benefits agencies.
The mother-of-three admitted making false statements to obtain benefits.
Belfast Crown Court Judge Her Honor Kennedy suspended a one year sentence for two years.
The judge said if it were not for "positive factors" in her life, including an arrangement with social services and the Housing Executive to repay all the money, "you would be facing an immediate custodial sentence".
Prosecuting lawyer Gareth Purvis told the court that "as a result of information received", Thompson was interviewed and admitted the swindle, adding that a copy of the Camelot check formed part of the evidential exhibits in the case.
Thompson was paid £38,550 in income support and £16,202 in housing benefit.
Defense said Thompson had put down a £20,000 deposit on a house which she then refurbished and gave some of her winnings to her family.
He further revealed that Thompson had made arrangements with each of the agencies to pay the money back at £25 per week but after "diligently" making a monthly budget, increased the payments voluntarily.
Judge Kennedy told Thompson she had taken money from "honest tax payers and that cannot be treated lightly".
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