Saaba Mahmood will avoid jail time after she was found to have defrauded the British taxpayer in collecting the benefits of her Pakistani relatives who left the country.
Mahmood, 36, claimed nearly £100,000 in state benefits over a five-year period in the name of her aunt and uncle even though they were ineligible to receive the handouts as they were living in Pakistan.
But despite admitting to four counts of failing to disclose information to make a gain and one count of fraud before the Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester, Mahmood will avoid jail time after being given a suspended sentence. She will merely have to attend a 15-day programme to educate her on the law at a cost of £1,500.
The convicted fraudster claimed in the trial that she was unaware that claiming benefits for people living outside of the country was illegal and her lawyer argued that “she lacks skills in understanding how to live in society as a responsible adult,” adding that Mahmood would “benefit from programmes to help her understand these are not victimless offences”.
Judge Angela Nield told Mahmood: “In your case the sums of money were significant and the offending took place over a lengthy period.”
“The benefits system is there to support vulnerable families and when that system and you especially should realise that because you are a carer for vulnerable people yourself. When the system is abused it can take a very significant period of time before that comes to light if it ever does,” Judge Nield said.
“When it does the overpayment can be impossible for the full amount to be repaid and those sums of money are then not available to those who make genuine claims,” she added.
The judge said that in light of Mahmood being a mother to eight children and that she takes care of two vulnerable adults, she said that she “somewhat reluctantly” decided to not send her to prison.
“Foster care and hospital care both come at significant public expense. I accept you are genuinely remorseful and social workers say your family are disciplined and well-mannered and it seems to me there is a realistic prospect of rehabilitation in your case. I have somewhat reluctantly concluded that I can suspend your sentence,” the judge said.