A showjumping trainer turned to benefit fraud to fund her lifestyle after she left behind a national coaching job in Dubai to care for her daughter.
Yvonne Thomas, 63, left her high flying job as an export sales representative in the United Arab Emirates – where she also coached a national show-jumping team – and returned to the UK with her disabled daughter, following the breakdown of her marriage.
Your personal difficulties are quite understandable in trying to assist your daughter in living as natural a lifestyle as possible
When a horseriding accident left her unable to work or prepare a hot meal for herself she started claiming Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to support herself.
However Thomas, of Rookwood Avenue, Anchorsholme, failed to notify the DWP and her local authority when her health improved and she took on a part time job as a cleaner.
From October 2005 to June 2014 she claimed £31,916.98 she was not entitled to in order to supplement her now modest lifestyle.
Jon Close, prosecuting, said: “She worked as a cleaner from 5 October 2005. Her needs were not what was stated on her initial claim for DLA and she had been receiving payment as a cleaner.”
Richard Gray, defending, told the court Thomas had lost the three great passions in her life: her husband and daughter; her career in Dubai and her equestrian talents.
He said: “It has to be said she excelled in all three, in so far as her dedication to her husband and latterly her daughter, to the position she lost in Dubai as the result of the breakdown of her marriage and her return to the UK and the stoic and complete dedication to her tragically deceased daughter.
“She was wrenched away from her job to start a new life with no money and a daughter who suffered cerebral palsy.
“Unfortunately for Mrs Thomas and her daughter two things happened. There was a bequest by a family will. Mrs Thomas acted as a trustee.
“A wretched individual entered their lives who consistently asked for money from her daughter...to the point where even a few trinkets of jewellery which were relatively worthless were constantly pawned by a man who to all intents and purposes had the morals of a pimp.”
On Christmas Eve 2014 Thomas received the news her daughter had choked to death in the shower while on holiday with the unnamed man and had to undergo the difficult process of repatriating her body alone.
Mr Gray said: “In normal circumstances it is difficult to bring up children and the distractions of men entering their life, and wanting to fly the nest is difficult enough.
“Coupled with the horrific injury that Mrs Thomas suffered at the hands of her beloved horses, really facilitated an attitude not really of apathy but not of deliberate criminality either.
“Her priority was always (her daughter’s) welfare and keeping her safe from the clutches of this particularly wretched individual.”
Thomas pleaded guilty to four counts of benefit fraud.
Recorder Andrew McLoughlin, sentencing, said: “There were various forms of benefits dishonestly claimed by you over a period of eight and a half years.
“You took taxpayers money dishonestly for a significant period of time. That is a significant period of time you acted dishonestly.
“I am not trying to undermine anything that has been said on your behalf but clearly there are many people in this country who have to struggle along and maintain a lifestyle within the remits of what is considered appropriate in terms of the benefits that are paid and they do not turn to crime and dishonesty.
“Your personal difficulties are quite understandable in trying to assist your daughter in living as natural a lifestyle as possible.
“That culminated in the tragic death of your daughter on Christmas Eve 2014, and the lack of co-operation by someone who had permeated your lives and had removed significant funds for his own ends and had exploited that position.”
The judge handed Thomas a six month sentence suspended for 12 months and ordered her to carry out 60 hours of unpaid work.
A proceeds of crime hearing has been scheduled for June 8.