£20K benefits cheat mother jailed
A mother has been jailed for eight months after claiming more than £20,000 in benefits - while having £200,000 stashed in a Swiss bank account.
Caroline Foxley, 59, took the handouts while sending her two children to top private schools including Cheltenham Ladies College and Bloxham School in Oxford.
She later insisted the money belonged to the father of her children, Dr Kurt Mayer, and could not be touched due to his alleged links with the Mafia in Italy.
In October last year, Foxley was convicted of four counts of failing to notify changes in circumstances to obtain benefits between March 2007 and March 2009.
But while awaiting sentence, Foxley applied for even more benefits and attempted to send £40,000 from the Swiss account to her son's Russian bank account.
Gloucester Crown Court heard Foxley, of no fixed address, had claimed a further £30,000 from different district councils after her offending in 2009.
Judge Alastair McGrigor, assistant judge advocate general, told Foxley, who remained emotionless in the dock, her crimes required a "significant amount of planning".
"You have been convicted at trial of four counts of failing to notify changes in circumstances to obtain benefits," the judge said.
"Essentially, you had a large sum amounting to some £200,000 that was the balance of a sale of a property.
"You transferred that sum to Switzerland then made fraudulent claims for benefits, amounting to over £19,000.
"Indeed, you are currently in custody because shortly after the trial you attempted to transfer the sum of £40,000 to your son in Russia.
"You fraudulent actions required a significant amount of planning although I accept that the outset of your benefit claiming was not fraudulent."
Foxley claimed income support and jobseeker's allowance from the Department for Work and Pensions, along with council tax and housing benefits from Cotswold District Council.
Following investigations into those claims, she applied for - and was paid - benefits from Malvern Hills and Wychavon District Councils, the court heard.
Prosecuting, Stephen Mooney said: "The conviction of Ms Foxley didn't unfortunately stop her criminal activities.
"We identified efforts that she made to dissipate assets in her possession by attempting to transfer those from Switzerland to her son's account in Moscow.
"She tried to transfer £40,000. The second aspect of her criminality is that further offences came to light.
"It appears that she was committing identical offences during the same time period through claims to Malvern and Wychavon District Councils.
"She has obtained a sum in the region of £30,000. She also, within days of being convicted, started another claim."
The court heard Foxley had been legally entitled to claim income support benefits from 2006.
But the following year, Foxley sold her Cotswold home, Depot Lodge in Chipping Camden, for £306,000 and placed around £200,000 of this money into a Swiss bank account.
Bank records show money was taken out of the Habibson account to pay school fees for her children, Freddie and Miranda.
Representing Foxley, David Leathley said his client treated the account as a trust fund for the children on the wishes of her ex-partner, who died last year.
"Ms Foxley has always insisted that she believed Dr Mayer was in over his head," Mr Leathley, said.
"She did believe that the problems that Dr Mayer faced were not entirely from regular authorities. Irregular or possibly criminal sources were after Dr Mayer.
"She is from an impeccable background, impeccable upbringing. Her children were both educated at private, fee-paying schools."
Mr Leathley said his client had not used the money to fund a "lavish" lifestyle for herself, only to support her children.
The £40,000 sent to her son in Moscow was to be used to help him establish an English Language school in the city.
"It was a last attempt by her to squirrel away money for that child, not for herself," he added.
Mr Leathley likened Foxley to Anne Boleyn and said she was going "to the scaffolds" with the same mindset as when her trial began.
At a previous hearing, Mr Leathley said Foxley feared the Mafia and believed the money belonged to them.
A Proceeds of Crime hearing to claw back some of the money Foxley fraudulently claimed will take place later this year.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Work and Pensions said: "Benefit fraud is a crime and we are dedicated to catching those who commit it.
"Only a small minority of benefit claimants are dishonest, but cases like this cost the taxpayer money that should be used to help those in need.
"We are determined to find those who we suspect are cheating the system by following up on tip-offs, undertaking surveillance and working with local councils."