Page last updated at 16:04 GMT, Thursday, 10 April 2008 17:04 UK

Benefit couple faked 16 children

David Wilshaw and Nancy Stevenson
The pair were questioned in relation to claims for child tax credits.

Two people have been sentenced after claiming thousands of pounds in benefits for 16 non-existent children.

Danny Wilshaw, 58, claimed more than 75,000 over four years and must serve half of a 20-month jail sentence.

Nancy Stevenson, 59, of Weston-super-Mare, was accused of claiming up to 11,000 in child tax credits over four years.

She was given a 12-month non-custodial order and must observe a curfew between 1900 and 0700 BST.

The pair, both from Weston-super-Mare, exploited a loophole after realising they did not have to send children's birth certificates to tax officials to prove they existed.

After his arrest, Wilshaw, a gambling addict with 85 previous convictions for fraud, claimed he had done a public service by exposing the loophole.

Gareth Wilshaw
Simon Wilshaw
Sandra Wilshaw
Brian Wilshaw
Jason Wilshaw
Rebecca Stevenson
Phillip Stevenson
Edith Stevenson
Terry Stevenson
Barbra Stevenson
Amanda Phillips
Jessica Phillips
Miranda Evans
Jemma Williams
Danny Evans
Amber Mitchell

He told officers: "It was incredibly easy. Nobody checked up on us until last week."

Wilshaw, who masterminded the scam, lived with Stevenson in a one-room property in the town during the period they claimed for the bogus children.

He used the money to fund a gambling habit which cost up to 600 per week, while she admitted to drinking two bottles of brandy a day.

Judge Michael Harrington described Wilshaw's record as "appalling" after it was revealed he had 105 theft convictions.

He was told he must serve 10 months of a 20-month prison sentence after being convicted of 42 fraud offences.

Stevenson, who admitted one charge of tax credit fraud, received a 12-month community order and was told she must wear a tag for four months.

The judge said she spent her life "in an alcoholic haze".

After the case Sarah Bamford, of HM Revenue and Customs, said: "This case is the result of many months of intense and thorough work by a dedicated team of tax credit investigation officers, determined to see that these fraudsters were brought to justice."

Accused woman 'not fit for trial'
09 Nov 07 |  Somerset
Cash 'claimed for bogus children'
28 Sep 07 |  Somerset
Arrests over 75k child tax fraud
15 Mar 07 |  Somerset

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