A grandmother has “overly exaggerated” her disability to falsely claim more than £ 1 million in benefits over fifteen years, a court has heard.
Christina Pomfrey, 65, lied that she was completely blind and wheelchair-bound, but under the supervision of detectives they showed that she was driving, taking a walk unaided while reading a newspaper, and getting her grandchildren out of school.
When confronted with the evidence, she said she was relieved to finally be caught and claimed that she had given the money away to charity and those in need.
However, she also admitted to spending money on countless vacations, cosmetic treatments, and clothing.
On Monday, Pomfrey, from Runcorn, Cheshire, was imprisoned for three years and eight months after she was found guilty of multiple counts of fraud, false accounting, and the making or supply of items for use in fraud at a previous hearing.
Judge Sophie McKone, a convict at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court, said: “You grossly exaggerated your disabilities by pretending to be completely blind and that your multiple sclerosis was so serious that you needed substantial and costly care.
“This was money you were not entitled to. In 15 years, you have stolen £ 1 million from your fellow citizens. Money that would have gone to people who deserved it, money that could have gone to schools and hospitals.
“This was a determined benefit fraud on a substantial scale. You claimed that you spent money on others – whether true or not, you spent some money on holidays, beauty treatments, clothing, restaurants and hotels.”
The court heard that, despite a plea of guilt and remorse for investigators in December 2017, Pomfrey continued her fraud on bail.
Judge McKone said, “You’ve made even more dishonest benefits, lying again about your personal circumstances and your health, making more money paid out. Your behavior is – frankly – amazingly unfair.”
The judge noted that Pomfrey, from The Glen, Palacefields, had a traumatic childhood that continued into adulthood when she was abused “by people who should have been taking care of you.”
As a result, the defendant was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and is also suffering from a disassociative disorder, in which she appears to be hiring different personas to deal with past trauma.
Her daughter, Aimee Brown, 34, from Runcorn, was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, after she had laundered £ 80,000 of Pomfrey’s money in her bank account and kept over £ 70,000 for herself.
She had been “deceived” by her mother and did not know the extent of her lies, but had made a guilty plea against money laundering for not following up on her suspicions, the court heard.
The court was also told that Pomfrey had spent the full amount of £ 1,010,090 fraudulently claimed in various benefits.
Senior Crown Prosecutor George Ward of CPS Mersey Cheshire said, “Christina Pomfrey is a shameless serial fraudster who has systematically cheated on a system designed to help the most vulnerable in our society.
“She didn’t think about the feelings of the people whose identities she used to make her false claims, and as a result, in some cases prevented them from making real claims of tax relief to supplement their low pay.”