A woman who pretended to be a single parent to claim more than £25,000 in extra benefits has escaped a jail sentence.
Erika Fletcher Sanchez, of Longridge Road, Earls Court, was sentenced on Thursday (February 12) at Hammersmith Magistrates’ Court to six months in jail, suspended for two years, after admitting to fraudulently claiming £25,785.86 over four years at an earlier hearing on January 13.
Fletcher Sanchez told Kensington & Chelsea Council in 2004, when she first claimed benefits, that she was a single mother. The council questioned her relationship status when she had two further children in 2010 and 2011, with different surnames, but she wrote a number of statements insisting she lived alone.
However the council’s corporate investigation group later found Fletcher Sanchez had married Fabian Andres Restrepo Bonilla in Colombia in September 2010 and when they returned to the UK they lived together in Longridge Road.
She was called in for an interview under caution in March 2014, providing a written statement with no mention of her husband.
Magistrates decided not to send her case to crown court, where her sentence would have been greater, because she entered an early guilty plea.
They said while the fraud was committed over a long period and involved a large sum of money, her claim had not been fraudulent from the outset but Fletcher Sanchez had provided false explanations. However, they had seen her references and the pre-sentence report and noted she was of previous good character.
Between September 2010, when she got married, and May 2014 she received £22,783.32 in housing benefit, £2,023.78 in council tax benefit and £978.76 in council tax reduction to which she was not entitled.
As well as being handed a suspended sentence for five counts of dishonestly claiming housing benefit and council tax benefit, she was also ordered to pay costs of £750, victim surcharge of £80 and must complete 200 hours of unpaid work within a year.