A BRITISH expat who claimed she was ‘unable to walk’ stole thousands of pounds in disability benefits while living on the Costa del Sol.
Kathleen Jones, 63, was forced to admit she lived in Malaga after being confronted by flight records during her trial at Hull Crown Court.
But according to Hull Live, the benefits cheat was spared jail after she told the judge how the warmer weather helped with her health problems.
Jones was over paid more than €42,000 in Disability Living Allowance and council tax benefit between 2012 and 2017.
Jayne Bryan, prosecuting, said of her interview on April 24 last year: “She was to say initially that she only visited Spain about once every three months and stayed with her cousin, and latterly friends.
“She denied ever living permanently in Spain. When shown the flight details and other evidence she accepted that in fact she had spent long periods of time in Spain, but didn’t accept that she had ever lived there – despite having a registered address in Malaga.”
Jones, from Hull, would later switch her position, revealing she had moved to Spain as a resident in 2015.
But that figure did not take into account Jones’s basis of plea, which was accepted by prosecutors, the court heard.
In her basis of plea, she said: “The period of the indictment ranges from 2012 to 2017. I did not live in Spain throughout that period.
“I was visiting friends in Spain regularly in 2012 and 2013. I should have notified the department of this.
“Following back surgery in 2014 I started to spend more time in Spain and agree that from 2015 I would be considered to be resident in Spain.
“Throughout the period that I claimed DLA I had genuine health problems that were alleviated by warm weather.”
Jones changed her pleas to guilty after initially denying all counts.
Bryan detailed how she had been in receipt of disability allowance between August 1, 1997, and October 24, 2017.
Jones initially received DLA after being deemed ‘virtually unable to walk’ and needed assistance preparing meals due to a condition called spondylosis, affecting her neck, shoulders and lower back.
“That benefit was paid directly into Mrs Jones’s bank account,” Bryan said.
“She had a duty to inform the Department for Work and Pensions of any change in her circumstances, including any change of address, and to inform them if she intended to leave the country for more than four weeks.”
Jones also received housing benefit between March 16, 2009, and December 16, 2018, and council tax benefit between March 16, 2009, and March 31, 2013.
These benefits became payable to her because she received DLA.
Jones should have immediately informed East Riding Council of any change in circumstances that may affect her benefit entitlement.
Flight information recovered by the DWP suggested Jones spent ‘the majority of her time in Spain’ between January 13, 2012, and September 10, 2017, Bryan said.
“She accepts that she visited Spain regularly in 2012 and 2013 and that she should have notified the relevant department of this,” the prosecutor said.
“The defendant accepts that in 2014 she started to spend even more time in Spain and moved there as a resident in 2015.”
Judge Watson said Jones’ mental health had suffered as a result of the case.
It was also said she was not living a ‘lavish or luxurious lifestyle’.
Jones, who attended court with a walking stick, was sentenced to 10 months in jail, suspended for 12 months.
She was ordered to attend an alcohol treatment course and have up to eight days rehabilitation.