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Fraudster escapes jail for 43K theft

PUBLISHED: 16:32 29 April 2010 | UPDATED: 11:40 23 August 2010

A BENEFIT fraudster who stole £43,000 by falsely claiming single parent allowances for six years has narrowly avoided jail. Mary Kathleen Cole, of Ingoldsby Road, Gravesend, was sentenced to 300 hours community service and a suspended jail sentence at Ma

A BENEFIT fraudster who stole £43,000 by falsely claiming single parent allowances for six years has narrowly avoided jail.

Mary Kathleen Cole, of Ingoldsby Road, Gravesend, was sentenced to 300 hours community service and a suspended jail sentence at Maidstone Crown Court.

The 40-year-old pleaded guilty to seven counts of benefit fraud through housing benefit, council tax benefit and income support.

Judge Patience gave her a 64-week prison sentence suspended for two years as well as the community service.

He said: "We are all aware that public resources are scarce. This amount has been paid to you when there are others needier than you.

"I except that you obtained small sums over a long period not a large one off sum but such a sum clearly crosses the custodial sentence. I am persuaded that I can suspend the sentence on this occasion."

he court heard, last Friday, how Cole separated from her husband Duncan in 1998 when she began claiming as a single parent, but in January 2000 he returned to the family home without informing Gravesham Borough Council.

Gravesham Borough Council investigators were tipped off through an anonymous phone call and discovered the couple held joint bank accounts, finances and loans all registered at the Ingoldsby Road address.

At interview Mrs Cole maintained that Mr Cole was not living with her, he used her address for post as it was safe and they did not get divorced as she was Catholic and therefore it went against her beliefs.

She will be forced to repay the money she wrongly claimed.

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