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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

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Cumbrian woman claimed dad's pension for five years after he died

A woman pocketed more than £27,000 by going on claiming her father’s pension for five years after he died.

Angela Hewitt, 48, was too hard-up to give former coal miner Gordon Parkinson “the sort of funeral she felt he deserved” after he died of a heart attack on July 22, 2007.

So, when the National Coal Board sent an instalment of his work-related pension after his death, she spent it on giving him a good send-off.

Although she told the Department for Work of Pensions that he had died, so putting a stop to his state pension payments, she never bothered to get around to telling the Coal Board he was dead. It was nearly five years before investigators working for the pension company’s trustees discovered what she was doing and reported her to the police.

At Carlisle Crown Court, Hewitt, of High Road, Kells, Whitehaven, pleaded guilty to fraud and forging her father’s signature on an application – three months after his death – to change his address to hers.

Prosecutor Becky McGregor told the court only £10 was left of the total of £27,318 which the mother of two teenaged children had received through her late father’s account.

After her arrest in May last year, Hewitt told investigators she had been driven by “pure greed”, the court heard.

She said she had come to depend on it for week-to-week living expenses, and had not used it to fund any sort of lavish lifestyle.

“It was just so easy,” Hewitt told them “It went on and on.”

Defence barrister Greg Hoare described it as “a very unfortunate and sad case”.

“She had led an exemplary life, struggling with her family and helping her father to the end of his days,” he said.

But, he said, she got into debt – partly because of debts inherited from her mother – and saw her father’s pension as a way out of them.

“The money kept coming in and because of her financial situation she simply kept drawing upon it,” he said.

Mr Hoare said that though Hewitt knew it was wrong, once she had been doing it for a while she did not know how to stop.

Hewitt was given an eight-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered to do 200 hours unpaid community work.

A hearing will be held on August 9 at which she is likely to be made to pay back any benefits she achieved by her dishonesty.

The court heard the authorities were also now looking into her entitlement to benefits payments.

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