A 55-year-old benefit cheat broke down in tears as a judge told her she wasn’t going to prison.
Shahnaz Malik told lies about the purchase of her home in St Anne’s Avenue, Ainley Top, and the fraud which lasted six years led to her being paid more than £23,000 in housing benefit to which she was not entitled.
Bradford Crown Court heard claims that she had been handing over hundreds of pounds a week to the man she said had helped her to set up the scam, but today (FRI) a judge ordered to repay the whole sum or face jail.
Judge Jonathan Rose was told by a tearful Malik that she taking steps to get a loan which would mean she could pay back £23,068.35.
But the judge said he wanted confirmation of the loan by next month or he would treat it as a breach of the sentence and she would go to prison.
Judge Rose told Malik, who admitted making a false representation to obtain housing benefit, that he was suspending her eight-month jail term for two years, but she would be punished by having to do 150 hours unpaid work for the community.
Prosecutor David McGonigal said Malik purchased her home in April 2009, but then submitted a claim in which she said she was renting the house from a landlord.
“In order to substantiate that claim she provided a tenancy agreement and rent books,” said Mr McGonigal.
“Eventually the authorities realised she did own the house and investigations were made and her claim was stopped in July 2015.”
Malik claimed that she had met a man at a wedding who had assisted her with the application, but Mr McGonigal said she was not able to provide any telephone number or details for him.
Passing sentence, Judge Rose said the case crossed the custody threshold, but after reading various documents and letters about Malik he had decided to suspend the jail term.
“You have pleaded guilty to a serious offence that in plain terms is fraud,” the judge told Malik.
“It is fraud on the public. It is money that is needed for those who cannot afford housing. It is not money for those who have bought their own home.
“Whatever the background, whoever you spoke to, you made a deliberate decision to defraud the public purse and you did it over a period of time.”