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Woman Who Fraudulently Claimed £18,000 Worth Of Benefits Is Re-paying ‘£20 A week’. It Will Take 18 Years To Re-Pay Cash At Current Rate

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A court heard a woman from the Ballymoney area who fraudulently claimed benefits of over £18,000 is now paying back £20 a week.

It will take Billie Jo Hargan (36), around 18 years to re-pay the money at the current rate.

The defendant appeared at Coleraine Magistrates Court on Friday and her address was given on court papers as Hamilton Park in Ballymoney but on a media release sent out by the department regarding the case, it was listed as Esdale Gardens which is in Balnamore.

She claimed Income Support and Housing Benefit totalling £18,386.16 while failing to declare living with a partner and received a nine months jail term, suspended for two years.

Deputy District Judge Peter Magill said he recently came across a case involving a similar amount and in that matter a confiscation application went to the Crown Court.
A prosecutor said the defendant is currently in receipt of benefits and she had disputed the amount she owed.

The lawyer said an investigation was launched after information was received that the defendant was living with a partner, who was in employment.
The defendant had not declared that on forms and had been receiving benefits.

Defence barrister Michael Smyth said the defendant was separated from her partner but she accepts she was “getting financial assistance” from him which she didn’t declare.
After developments in her life, the lawyer said the defendant was in a “state of flux” and she wanted to ensure she had enough money for her children’s needs.

Judge Magill said there were some people who just set out to to defraud the system and people like that go to jail but he said the defendant was not being sent to prison.
He said Hargan had a clear record and had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and added: “I realise in your situation it has been hard to make ends meet”.
The judge added: “You have children to look after, one of whom has serious health issues”.

The judge said people on benefits have to declare everything “otherwise you end up here” and he warned the defendant if she is back for something similar the court may not take the same view.

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