A husband and wife are beginning a jail sentence for their part in an £80,000 benefits scam carried out by a team of school cleaners in Cardiff.
The Carters began committing fraud because of rising debts
Perry Carter, 42, was jailed for six months after he admitted using the name of his wife's late husband to claim £11,000 in benefits.
Mrs Carter, 41, admitted claiming £18,600 in benefits and was jailed for 12 months.
The court was told she also encouraged colleagues to falsely claim benefits.
An investigation by the Department of Works and Pensions into cleaners at St Illtyd's High School in Rumney, Cardiff, found the couple were at the centre of a widespread fraud operated by staff at the contract cleaning firm Solo Service Group.
The court heard how Caroline Carter encouraged her husband to work under her dead first husband's surname as Perry Gough.
He then built up claims amounting to £10,956.54 in housing benefit, council tax benefit and income support.
Mrs Carter also claimed £18,682.25 in incapacity benefit and carer allowances.
The couple received up to £300 a week from the state between 1998 and 2004.
The court also head that Mrs Carter encouraged at least three other employees to work using false names and claim benefits under their real names.
Michael Jones, defending Mr Carter, said the couple, from St Mellons, Cardiff, began making fraudulent claims because of his rising debts.
Mr Jones told the court how Carter gave up work because of depression after the death of his brother in 1998.
"He lost a good job at General Electric and found he was running up large credit card debts," he said.
"He was at least £18,000 in debt and wanted to supplement his insufficient wages. He recognises he has spent society's money."
'Culture' of fraud
John Holmes, defending Mrs Carter, said that there was a "culture" of fraud in the company as a way for employees "to supplement their income".
"Her first husband died of cancer and she met Carter in 1998 when he was badly in debt," he said.
"She found her husband a job with the cleaning firm because she was a supervisor.
"It was low paid work and the culture in the company was that scamming benefits was a normal procedure."
The couple admitted six counts of false representation.
Mrs Carter also admitted four charges of aiding and abetting her husband and colleagues to make fraudulent claims.
Judge Stephen Hopkins told the couple they were both "extremely dishonest people".
"These offences are very serious because they involved the raiding of the public purse," he said.
Mrs Carter was jailed for 12 months and her husband for six months.
After the hearing a Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) spokesman said they took these cases "extremely seriously".
"Benefit fraudsters steal £1.5bn a year that could be spent on schools and hospitals. There is no excuse for defrauding the system."
The managing director of Swansea-based Solo Service Group, Steve Hammett, said the company had not appointed Mr and Mrs Carter in their roles.
"We were awarded the cleaning contract about a year ago and these individuals were employed at the school prior to us starting the contract and transferred over to us from the previous contract," he said.
"We were legally obliged to take them on. They failed to inform us that they were claiming benefit."