Mother-of-three who stole more than £30,000 by posing as single parent was caught out when investigators saw her cuddling her partner on Facebook
- Stephanie Teare, 43, claimed to be living alone with her three children
- Welfare inspectors discovered Facebook pictures of Teare posing with a man
- Investigators discovered Earl Patrice told his employers he lived at Teare’s home
- Teare, who is repaying the cash, was handed a suspended six month jail term
Stephanie Teare, 43, from Ashton-under-Lyne claimed more than £30,000 in Universal Credit while claiming to be a single mother while living with bus driver Earl Patrice, believed to be pictured right
A mother of three who stole more than £30,000 in welfare handouts by posing a single parent was unmasked as a cheat after investigators found pictures of her cuddling her partner on Facebook.
Stephanie Teare, 43, pocketed extra allowances courtesy of the taxpayer after falsely claiming she cared for her children alone – yet was living with bus company worker Earl Patrice.
DWP investigators launched an investigation into Teare’s circumstances after they were made aware of photographs on her social media profiles suggesting she was living with Mr Patrice.
Inquiries revealed he had given Teare’s address when asked to supply his personal details to his employers and his life insurance policy and bank details were registered to her home. The pair had also gone on holiday together.
At Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester, Teare, a care home worker of Ashton-under-Lyne admitted making a false statement to obtain Universal Credit and was sentenced to six months jail suspended for 18 months,
She initially denied living with Mr Patrice and has since paid back £300.
The court heard the scam began in November 2015 after Teare first claimed universal credit on the basis she was a lone parent with three dependent children and was in part time work.
But prosecutor Robert Dudley said: ‘The children’s father who was employed by Stagecoach gave his address to his employer as her home address. His bank account and death in service benefit was also registered at her address.
‘In interview she denied cohabiting with him saying he lived at her home three or four times a week, had post delivered there which she had asked him to stop.
Teare claimed she was living alone with her three children, although Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester heard Mr Patrice, who is the father of the three children, had told his employer that he lived at Teare’s home address
Teare told inspectors she wanted to be in a relationship with Mr Patrice but their relationship was ‘on and off’ and while he stayed at her house ‘they lived separately’
‘When asked about her Facebook account which portrayed that they were in a relationship she confirmed she wanted that to be the case. She said she had borrowed money from him and they had been on holiday together.
‘She said that he stayed at the house but they lived separately. Two years since the original claim the total over paid was just over £33,700. Those funds are being recovered directly via her employer although these are fairly recent arrangements.’
In total, she fraudulently claimed £33,700 which is being paid back directly via her employer
In mitigation defence lawyer Mark Fireman: ‘She has lost her good name and she is deeply ashamed about what she did.
‘Relations with her partner were very much on and off during the period the two weren’t living together as a couple.
‘She was struggling financially and in addition to financial difficulties there was real alcohol dependency which impaired her judgement.
‘All the children are still residing in the family home the oldest is 21.
‘This woman has made significant steps to overcome the alcoholism she went to a rehabilitation facility in Ashton and received medication from the GP and is no longer alcohol dependent. She works at a care home doing night shifts 8pm to 8am.’
Sentencing Judge John Edwards told Teare: ‘You have fraudulently obtained universal credit on the grounds that the information you were providing was accurate.
‘It is an offence made easier by the fact that the system is based on the integrity of those who claim. If an individual chose to act dishonestly it is not only very expensive but you are stealing from those with genuine need who need genuine claims.
‘However you are in work, hard work, in a care home and I don’t think the public will be too upset if I stay my hand and don’t immediately send you to prison.’
Judge Edwards said Teare stole money from those really needed it although he described her as a ‘hard worker’ and would ‘stay’ his hand and not send her immediately to prison