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  1. ITV Report

'Agoraphobic' benefits cheat who travelled the world is jailed for 12 months

Johnson worked as a guide in Argentina while claiming cold winter payments. Photo: Reuters

An 'agoraphobic' woman who travelled the world enjoying a "champagne lifestyle", while on benefits has been jailed.

Tracy Johnson told authorities she was too ill to leave the house, yet her trial heard she enjoyed a four-month trip to India and shopping sprees in New York and Madrid.

As the 52-year-old travelled, she wrote travel guides, cook books and steamy novels while falsely claiming benefits around £50,000. A court also heard she spent six months working in sunny Argentina as a tour guide while receiving cold winter payments.

Andrew Penhale, of the Crown Prosecution Service, described the fraud as one of the worst he had ever seen.

Johnson spent a four-month stint in India while falsely claiming benefits. Credit: Reuters

Tracy Johnson plotted a blatant fraud against the public purse.She used taxpayers' money to fund a lavish, globetrotting lifestyle, all the while exploiting a system designed to support society's most vulnerable citizens.

Ms Johnson claimed more than £1,000 per month in benefit payments over five years, when in truth she was spending the majority of her time either travelling or working abroad.

Not only did Ms Johnson travel the globe while claiming she was 'a prisoner in her own home,' but she also ran her own tour guide company in South America and earned money working as a wedding photographer.

– Andrew Penhale from the Crown Prosecution Service

Among the overwhelming evidence prosecutor Joanna James brought before the jury were several posts Johnson had made on social networking sites.

One of her Facebook posts read: "I am one spoilt girl. Early lunch in the Himalaya Spa. Lunch here would be two weeks' wages in India."

She also went on to describe Buenos Aires as "magical - like a new lover".And her bank statements showed a six-month period where large sums of money was withdrawn from cash machines in Argentina - but not a single transaction occurred back in the UK.

Johnson had claimed someone in the South American country had copied her card - while she had remained totally bed-ridden at her mother's in Builth Wells, mid Wales.

Earlier this month, a jury at Merthyr Crown Court convicted Johnson of 13 charges - including fraud, dishonestly making a false representation, and dishonestly failing to notify a change in circumstances between January 2008 and July 2012.

Today Recorder Andrew Grubb jailed Johnson for one year.