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Last Updated: Friday, 9 March 2007, 15:12 GMT
Benefits scam was 'family affair'
A great-grandmother who was behind a family-wide 80,000 benefit fraud has been jailed for three months.

Margaret Williams, 58, of Penzance, Cornwall ran the scam with seven family members, who were also prosecuted after a three-year investigation.

The charges related to offences committed between December 1999 and September 2004. Three of the gang were also given custodial sentences.

Prosecutors said Williams, of Polweath Road, ran "very much a family affair".

Multiple benefits

All the charges related to money received by deception from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

They were involved in the scam while working as seasonal flower pickers and bulb planters.

Between them, Truro Crown Court heard, the defendants illegally claimed housing, council tax and sickness benefit, income support, invalid care allowance, incapacity benefit and disability allowance.

Williams admitted five charges totalling 3,824 and was sentenced to three months in prison, as was her partner, David James, 51, of the same address. He pleaded guilty to four charges totalling 8,263.

Stuart Feldmar, 36, of Trewartha Estate, Carbis Bay, pleaded guilty to five charges totalling 39,904 and was jailed for nine months.

Williams' daughter and Feldmar's former partner, Susan Dunn, 40, of Polweath Road, admitted four charges involving 14,550 and was also sentenced to nine months, suspended for two years.

Debbie Courtney, 32, of Polweath Road, was ordered to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work in the community after pleading guilty to four charges.

'Set example'

Her husband, Shaun, 38, of the same address, also admitted four charges, and was ordered to do 240 hours community service. The total overpayment for both was 7,782.

Mrs Williams' son Gary Williams, 38, of Rosehill Gardens, Heamoor, admitted four charges totalling 5,492 and was sentenced to 100 hours community service.

Barrie Van der Berg, for Margaret Williams and David James, said once the fraud started it was difficult to stop.

Sentencing, Judge Philip Wassall said that Williams "started the ball rolling" and "set the example that other members of your family followed".

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