Deal or No Deal winner Caroline Banana sentenced for fraud


A mother who won £95,000 on the television show Deal or No Deal has been ordered to do 215 hours unpaid work.

Caroline Banana, 40, of Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, previously admitted six counts of failing to disclose financial changes in her circumstances with the intention of profiting from the situation.

Sentencing her today, District Judge David Taylor said: "Any offence of benefit fraud is never victimless.

"It harms every member of society who works and pays tax with the misfortune of having to claim benefit."

He told her "you have brought upon yourself" the huge amount of media publicity the case had seen both at home and abroad, including as far afield as the United States and Australia.

He said "any honest person" would have reported the winnings within a short time of receiving them and said he was satisfied her behaviour did "amount to a deliberate cover up".

He pointed out Banana had only admitted her guilty on the eve of her trial last week, giving her "minimum credit" for that guilty plea.

Mr Taylor, sitting at North Staffordshire Magistrates' Court, ordered her to carry out a 12 month unpaid work order, with supervision by the probation service.

She was also made subject to two compensation orders; to repay £2,517.35 to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and repay £3,794.86 to Stoke City Council, and was ordered to pay £350 costs.

Benefit claimants must inform the Department of Work and Pensions if their bank balance exceeds £16,000, either due to a windfall or inheritance. However Banana, who appeared on the Channel 4 show hosted by Noel Edmonds in November 2011, did not disclose her winnings.

She admitted failing to disclose her windfall separately to both the DWP and Stoke City Council with the intention of making a gain between March 28, 2011 and May 13, 2012.

The council said in all she had been overpaid about £7,200 in housing benefit, council tax and income support.

She also admitted failing to declare to the DWP and the council her employment at a chemists, medical surgery and Longton Cottage Hospital.

Banana, of Bentilee, further admitted making a false representation on an Income Support application form by not declaring she was owed her TV gameshow winnings, in April 2011.

She also pleaded guilty to wrongly claiming free school meals for three children.

In mitigation, her solicitor David Green said "all remorse and shame has been expressed by my client".

He added offers of employment for Banana had been withdrawn when potential employers discovered her case in the press.

"Whatever happens today cannot outweigh her punishment already," said Mr Green.

"She doesn't complain and accepts she has done wrong and that the public has a right to know about the case through the media.

"But she has been significantly affected."

He said one of her daughters had been beaten up at school as a result of Banana's notoriety while vandals had targeted the family home.

Mr Green added Banana had begun repaying what she had wrongly claimed and was going to sell a £60,000 property in Turkey she had bought with the winnings to help settle the rest of her debt.

She now has 12 months to settle her over-payments in full.

Councillor Paul Shotton, Stoke-on-Trent City Council deputy leader, said Banana's actions in fraudulently claiming benefit were "offensive" both to people with genuine claims and to taxpayers who provide the money.

He said: "We are pleased with the court verdict and, as with all of these cases, the money that was obtained fraudulently will now be paid back in full to the council."

He added: "She's won a substantial amount of money and failed to declare it, then continued to take money out of the system.

"Like many other councils, we've got issues meaning we need to make cuts to services but at least £1 million is fraudulently going out of the council coffers to be spent on people like Caroline Banana.

"We take a serious view of this sort of fraud and will always look to prosecute."


Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own