By Lauren Crooks
A MOTHER pretended her three children were severely disabled – so she could claim more than £20,000 in benefits.
Sick Anne Marie Cockburn, 28, told tax credit bosses that she, her partner and her three kids were all affected by disabilities so she could get her hands on extra cash.
Cockburn even pretended to be her partner William McLeod during a telephone call to the government helpline to make amendments to his claims.
She was only caught out when she changed employment and child care details on a friend’s bank account and officials at the criminal investigations team grew suspicious.
Her money-making ploy came just two months after she was released from prison – for fraud.
Yesterday at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, Cockburn pleaded guilty to offences under the Tax Credits Act 2002, in which she pocketed £22,373.74 over a 11-month period.
The court heard how one of Cockburn’s friends was advised that details had been changed on one of her bank accounts – including child care costs, and employment details.
The friend, Tracey Daley, noticed that the amendments sounded very much like Cockburn’s present situation for claims.
So she advised the benefits agency that her friend did have access to the bank account.
Procurator Fiscal Melanie Ward said: “A check on the system showed that there had been amendments. This was in relation to child care costs and regarding work with a cleaning company.
“Miss Daley was aware of the fact that seemed very much like Cockburn’s circumstances and that she did have access to the bank account.”
The changes were investigated by the Criminal Investigations Team who discovered that Cockburn had been making lots of false claims.
Miss Ward continued: “Cockburn described her three children as severely disabled as well as herself and her partner being severely disabled. That’s just not true.
“The child care costs were not true, the employment details were also false, and the claims regarding disabilities were all false too.”
She added: “This offence came just two months after Cockburn was released from prison after serving a 10-month sentence for fraud.”
When Cockburn was questioned she also admitted she had called the Tax Credit helpline, pretending to be her male partner so that she could add child care costs onto his claim.
As a result of her scam – which lasted from December 2006 until November 2007 – Cockburn got away with £22,373.74.
Sheriff Derrick McIntyre will sentence her next month.