HMRC employee who stole £30k in tax credits avoids jail term
A former HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) manager in Northern Ireland has been sentenced for committing the very crime she was employed to stop.
Laura Southern (36), of Clonmore Park, Lisburn, lied about living with her partner to steal more than £30,000 in tax credits.
She worked as an HMRC benefits and credits compliance manager in Belfast, checking for fraudulent tax credits claims.
But for five years she falsely claimed to be a single parent while living with her partner.
She was interviewed under caution in February after investigators found she was living with her partner and had provided false information to HMRC.
Southern, who was a HMRC employee for over 16 years until her dismissal in August, fraudulently claimed £34,209.44 in tax credits between 2012 and 2017.
Joff Parsons, assistant director of internal governance at HMRC, said: "Southern was employed to track down people committing the very crime she has been convicted of.
"She knew exactly what she was doing and even though she knew it was wrong, she thought she could get away with stealing tax credits she wasn't entitled to. Her deceit was exposed and now she is paying the price.
"We expect the highest professional standards and integrity from our staff; no one is exempt and we will pursue criminals like Southern who think it is acceptable to steal tax credits."
Southern was handed a 15-month prison sentence, suspended for three years at Craigavon Crown Court on Tuesday.
Separately, a woman was convicted at Dungannon Crown Court yesterday for claiming £60,148 benefits she was not entitled to.
Lee Loe (42) of Parkwood Manor, Dungannon claimed income support, Jobseeker's allowance and housing benefit totalling £60,148 while failing to declare she was living with her partner.
She was given an 18-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.
Meanwhile, a man was convicted at Belfast Crown Court yesterday for claiming £17,181 benefits he was not entitled to.
Colin Clarkin (46) of Glentrasna Drive in the city claimed income support totalling £17,181 while failing to declare income.
He was given 100 hours community service and 12 months probation.
Both frauds were uncovered following an investigation by the Department for Communities.
Both fraudsters are also required to repay any outstanding money wrongfully obtained to the department.