A BRAMPTON woman who fraudulently claimed more than £20,000 in benefits has avoided jail.

Bridget Crane, 36, claimed her partner was her cousin who rented a room in her house - but investigations by Huntingdonshire District Council revealed they had shared bank accounts and had applied for a mortgage together.

Crane, of Woolley Close, Brampton, was sentenced to 10 weeks in prison, suspended for 24 months when she appeared at Huntingdon Magistrates' Court on Thursday (October 13).

She had changed her plea to guilty at trial on September 21, admitting six charges of benefit fraud between 2007 and 2011.

Crane claimed housing and council tax benefit and income support in 2007, telling authorities she was an unemployed lone parent bringing up two young children. She said a cousin, Mark Porter, also lived with them and paid board to rent a room.

After a tip-off in September 2010 that the two were a couple, investigations revealed joint bank accounts and joint a mortgage application. Witnesses came forward to say the pair were living as a couple at Woolley Close - which Crane denied.

A revised benefit assessment found Crane had been overpaid £20,663 in benefits between 2007 and 2011.

David Potter, mitigating, said Crane had pleaded guilty when she realised the seriousness of the charges. He said she was previously of good character and had made arrangements to repay the money, and handed up personal references for Crane.

Crane was ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work and pay the council's costs of £1,770.

On Friday, October 7, magistrates sentenced former Earith resident Tresa Tait for benefit fraud against HDC and Central Bedfordshire Council

Tait, 29, formerly of High Street, Earith, was arrested and held in custody after having failed to attend a hearing in September, and was sentenced to 180 hours of unpaid work and a 12-month community order.

She pleaded guilty to three charges of benefit fraud between May 2009 and January 2010 totalling £6,623.55 in housing and council tax benefit paid by both councils.

Tait claimed benefit from HDC in January 2009 while both she and her husband were unemployed. The couple left Earith in August 2009 and made claims for an address in Shefford, Bedfordshire, again stating they were unemployed.

After a tip-off from a member of the public, investigations by both councils revealed that Tait's husband had been working as a sub-contractor before the couple left Earith - earning up to £3,000 a week, which was paid into Tait's account. The work was never declared to either authority.

The couple moved house again, but were traced by investigators. Tait admitted her claims for benefits were false but that the couple had large debts.

Loraine Adams, mitigating, said Tait was previously of good character, and would lose her job at Luton Airport as a result of the conviction.