£137,000 benefits scam pair jailed

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The Independent Online

A couple who lived a luxury lifestyle on the back of a £137,000 benefits swindle were both jailed for 16 months today.

Suzie Dwyer, 36, claimed for more than a decade that she was a lone parent renting a house from Peter Campbell, 35, Liverpool Crown Court was told.

But benefit fraud investigators discovered they were not only living as a couple in a £370,000 house, he is also the father of her three children.

During their fraud, between August 1999 and November 2009, the couple enjoyed holidays to luxury resorts and built a large extension to their home in one of Merseyside's most exclusive suburbs.

When the benefit cheats were finally caught out by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), they had falsely claimed a total of £137,382.45, the court heard.

The pair, of Tithebarn Road, Knowsley Village, were sentenced today after Campbell earlier pleaded guilty to six counts of fraud relating to £50,000 in Housing Benefit and Dwyer admitted 17 charges in connection with £87,000 of Income Support and Council Tax benefit.

She sobbed in the dock as Kevin Slack, for the prosecution, outlined the case against them.

BMW driver Campbell, a member of his local golf club, followed proceedings with his hand placed on her knee.

He runs his father's electronics firm, which employs 15 people, Mr Slack said.

The barrister added: "Suzie Dwyer claimed benefit as a single parent when she was living with Peter Campbell, a man who was well paid in his work and well able to take financial care for his family. He claimed to be the landlord rather than her partner."

In a series of benefit claim forms, Dwyer dishonestly stated that Campbell was not related to her children, the prosecutor added.

In 2000, he sent a letter to Knowsley Borough Council supporting her claim and saying he lived with his parents and was renting the house for £100 a week. That same year they took a holiday in Florida together, Mr Slack said.

"It was the first of a series of foreign holidays which the defendants enjoyed while falsely claiming benefit," he added.

In 2001, as they claimed she was paying him £105 a week in rent, they took a holiday to Tunisia. The following year they went to Barbados and in 2004 enjoyed a Caribbean cruise.

The couple moved to Tithebarn Road in 2005 when Campbell took out a mortgage for £379,000. Again they produced a tenancy agreement, for £140 a week, which claimed she lived alone with the children and he was nothing more than their landlord.

In his mortgage application, Campbell stated he was earning £70,000 at the electronics firm, which employs 15 people, the court heard.

He later re-mortgaged the house to build a "sizeable" extension, Mr Slack added, around the same time the couple had a holiday in Marbella, Spain.