£120k benefits cheat jailed

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A WIGAN woman was behind bars today after fraudulently claiming nearly £120,000 in benefits.

Shamed Sarah Higgins had been claiming benefits as a single person while living with her partner for the last 11 years, who was in full-time employment.

It is one of the largest amounts fiddled out of the taxpayer by a Wigan benefit cheat but the 48-year-old will have to pay back every penny of it.

Following a trial at Manchester Crown Court, Higgins, of Cheltenham Avenue, Lower Ince was found guilty of fraudulently claiming £118,000 and was jailed for four months.

Higgins’s illegal activities came to light after the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) received an anonymous tip-off to their benefit fraud hotline. Following a joint investigation between Wigan Council, the DWP and the police, a search of the property took place and numerous pieces of evidence were seized.

Higgins was interviewed at Wigan Police Station on two occasions and refused to comment at each.

As well as serving her prison sentence, Higgins has been ordered to repay every penny of the overpaid benefit, which includes £84,110.57 in Income Support, £2,761.35 in Jobseeker’s Allowance, £24,597.03 in Housing Benefit, £6,700.65 in Council Tax Benefit and an £80 victim surcharge fee.

Coun Terry Halliwell, cabinet member for corporate resources and customer services at Wigan Council, said: “There are people in our communities that go to work every day and pay their taxes - yet struggle to just get by.

“Then there are people like Ms Higgins who fraudulently take what is not theirs.

“Justice has been served in this case.”