DESPITE receiving a divorce settlement of more than a quarter of a million pounds, a Warwick woman boosted her wealth even more by making fraudulent benefit claims.
Over a period of four years grasping Assa Brown claimed a total of just over £27,000 in housing and council tax benefits and jobseeker’s allowance, a judge at Warwick Crown Court has heard.
Brown, of Wordsworth Avenue, had pleaded guilty to failing to notify a change in circumstances and two charges of making false statements to obtain benefits.
The 50-year-old was sentenced to four months in prison suspended for two years, with 12 months’ supervision, and was ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work.
Prosecutor Henry Skudra said Brown had claimed housing and council tax benefits from October 2010, having said she was single and had a child in the household.
But she failed to declare she owned another property, bought with funds from her divorce settlement, or that she had an income from it.
Judge Andrew Lockhart QC observed: “She chose to claim benefits across a period of four years when she was in receipt of a quarter of a million pounds and £250 a week from the flat.”
Mr Skudra said that when Brown, who has a law degree, first made her claim for housing and council tax benefit, it was legitimate – but it became fraudulent just a month later when she received the divorce settlement.
And he pointed out that two separate false declarations she later made for jobseeker’s allowance were fraudulent from the outset.
By the time her dishonesty was discovered, she had been paid £21,731 in housing benefit, £2,233 in council tax benefit, and £3,114 in jobseeker’s allowance to which she was not entitled.
But when she was interviewed Brown told what the judge described as ‘manifest lies,’ claiming the money belonged to her father and that she had received nothing from her ex-husband.
She failed to provide details of the divorce settlement, and asserted the money going into her account was a loan from her father which she would have to repay, added Mr Skudra.
Amiee Parkes, defending, said Brown had come to the UK from Iran in 1982, and after gaining a law degree was in full-time employment until 2010, working as the general manager of 12 shops.
Miss Parkes added the pressure of the divorce had led to heavy drinking, but added Brown had now been sober for two years, and now wanted to move on with her life and hoped to become a carer for disabled children.
Brown and her ex-husband have shared contact with their daughter, and Miss Parkes said she would struggle if she was jailed, adding Brown had so far repaid a total of £4,640 and is having £3.70 a week stopped out of benefits she still receives.
Judge Lockhart commented: “I’d have been more impressed if she had repaid it all. She is a woman who is no doubt still sitting on enormous assets. She still owns her address, and could have taken draw-down on that.”
He added the offences had to be marked by a custodial sentence, although it could be suspended – but told Brown any breaches of the order would be reserved to him.