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FRAUDSTER HAD pounds 173K IN SAVINGS; Mum who claimed benefits for 10 years told authorities that saved cash was brother's gambling winnings.

Byline: Liz Keen

A MOTHER OF SIX from the travelling community saved more than pounds 173,000 in her children's bank accounts - despite claiming benefits of nearly pounds 100,000.

Helen Ryan, 40, spread the cash between her own bank accounts and those belonging to her children.

But she claimed benefits for 10 years after telling the Department of Works and Pensions she had no savings.

Cardiff Crown Court heard Ryan, of Rumney, Cardiff, told investigators the cash in the nine savings accounts was money her brother had won betting on horses.

But when government officials checked with bookmakers, they had no knowledge of such winnings.

Last night, Ryan was behind bars after admitting seven charges of fraudulently claiming benefits.

Her barrister Peter Davies said: "In the travelling community value is put in saving money for the children.

"This is a simple case of a parent putting money aside for when the children are older."

The court was told Ryan, who lives in a rented house in Rumney's Greenway Road with her three youngest children, aged 17, 13 and 10, juggled cash between nine separate accounts while claiming pounds 96,779 of taxpayers' cash.

Ryan claimed pounds 88,000 in income support and pounds 8,000 of council tax benefits, but was not entitled to benefits as she had more than pounds 12,000 in savings.

Ryan had three accounts, one with HSBC and two at the Principality, prosecutor Carl Harrison said.

Ryan said the cash in the children's accounts had been family gifts for them at Christmas and for birthdays. But Mr Harrison told the court: "This was a top-end case - she had a considerable amount of capital in her accounts and she wanted to hide it.

"She took steps to conceal her nine bank accounts from the DWP.

"Ryan made false representations on benefit forms and during interviews to keep the authorities in the dark relating to her true economic circumstances"

She claimed her brother was a big gambler and needed to hide his winnings from his wife."

Giving her a 24-week jail sentence, Judge David Wynn Morgan said he had seen no evidence to prove where the cash had come from.

But he told Ryan: "Whether it was lawful or unlawful, it was money you should have declared and you went to considerable lengths to disguise its existence.

"At the forefront of this is the fact that over a 10-year period pounds 96,779 was dishonestly obtained from the taxpayer." He said the fact that the single mother, whose partner lives in a caravan on a nearby traveller site, had repaid the amount in full to the DWP on Thursday could not save her from custody.

Ryan's first claim for income support was made in September 2001 and she later also received council tax allowance and additional allowances for her children.

On the form which asked if she or the children had any savings, she ticked "No".

But she in fact had pounds 38,829 and the children over pounds 12,000 between them, Mr Harrison said. Her savings grew from that point onwards, he told the court.

By November 2002 she had pounds 82,139, but by 2009, when she applied for a loan to buy a bed, the sum had grown to pounds 173,983.

The court was told the bank accounts were opened using her parents' address in Harris Avenue, Rumney, and then Oakmeadow, St Mellons.

Her defence counsel said this was an attempt to prevent the fact she was storing money for her brother leaking out.

Mr Davies told the court: "Throughout the years she was bringing up six children - three are still at home, the youngest 10 years old.

"And despite investigations - where all the king's horses and all the king's men tried to prove to the contrary - there is no evidence that the money in her accounts came from an unlawful source.

"The children's sums grew with each birthday and Christmas from gifts and she was in rented accommodation at Greenway Road, Rumney, with no evidence of living the high life - no going abroad four times a year, skiing or buying houses."

He said Ryan's partner was a member of the travelling community but she had always wanted a roof over her head for her and the children.

Ryan, who had arrived at court with a suitcase, acknowledged supporters in the public gallery before being escorted from the dock to the cells.

She will serve 12 weeks before being released on licence.
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Feb 18, 2012
Words:751
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