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Mum jailed for £¼m benefit fraud

BENEFIT fraudster Lucy Parker netted more than a quarter of a million pounds over six years – and used the cash to pay for holidays and private schools.

The 56-year-old wife of the National Farmers' Union's head of tax was rumbled when a Jobcentre employee spotted she'd made claims under two different names.

When the full extent of her fraudulent activity was exposed, it was revealed she used the identities of 19 other people – some of whom she knew lived abroad – to make claims supported by forged doctors' letters and tenancy agreements. She also had a stash of "burner" mobile phones for her fake identities.

Parker, who lived in Shipston Road, Stratford, at the time of her "systematic" crime, was jailed for two-and-a-half years after pleading guilty to nine charges of fraud.

Prosecutor Jamie Scott told Warwick Crown Court that between April 2012 and August 2018 Parker claimed jobseeker’s allowance and universal credit totalling just over £274,900.

Although Parker’s husband was the main breadwinner, she worked in admin at Warwick University and the social care department of Warwickshire County Council. Mr Scott said: “Her family lived a comfortable middle-class lifestyle, with holidays to far-flung places such as South Africa and Japan.”

Suspicions were aroused when Parker went to a Jobcentre posing as Louise Clarke and a member of staff recognised her – under a different name.

A Department for Work and Pensions investigation included CCTV footage from banks showing Parker withdrawing money from accounts in the names of real people whose birth and marriage certificates she had obtained. She also created false hospital and GP letters about procedures including knee operations and hysterectomies, while some of the addresses she used were derelict buildings.

After an eight-month surveillance operation, Parker’s home was searched and a large number of fake and blank documents were found, together with a USB stick containing false references and tenancy agreements. At least seven burner phones were found, each with details on the back of the false claim for which it was used.

Under interview, Parker initially denied any knowledge of the frauds. Then, after asking for an adjournment to contact a solicitor, she declined to answer questions. It was only months later that she confessed in a prepared statement.

Kevin Hegarty QC, defending, said the fraud "involved repeating the same exercise over and over again, and of all the computer details gathered from the house, nothing was encrypted".

He added: “The offending plainly had to have planning, but in my submission it is not significant to that degree. Once this system was in place, the offending was simply repeated.”

He said Parker had previously led "a blameless life" and since the offences came to light the family home had been sold and she had deposited her share into a bank account.

One of her two sons had "particular difficulties" and it was her "focus and devotion to him" which led to the offences.

“Of course, it was always open to her not to send her children to a fee-paying school, but such was her devotion to her children that she could not accept that as a way forward. She was faced with that difficulty, which she answered in a wholly wrong way."

Jailing Parker, who now lives in Barby, near Rugby, Judge Anthony Potter told her: “This was not a moment of madness on your part, but sustained criminality over a period not of months but many years.

“You effectively stole money from the public purse. You were living, if not a luxurious lifestyle, a very comfortable lifestyle, and you owned your home outright and your children were sent to public school.

“Yours was sophisticated offending. The way you conducted these frauds involved a good deal of thought and planning. It was a highly successful fraud, and it netted you a substantial sum of money.”

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