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Plymouth gran jailed for falsely claiming £50,000 in benefits

A Plymouth grandmother has been jailed for falsely claiming more than £50,000 in benefits.

Emma Lagrue, 53, pocketed four types of disability and other benefits for nearly six years before being caught by investigators.

A court heard that Lagrue, of Efford, claimed she was disabled but was in fact busy working as a cleaner.

Her job was only discovered following an anonymous tip-off - and after an investigation by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) - she had worked for a cleaning company and then privately for individual clients.

Emma Lagrue pocketed four types of disability and other benefits for nearly six years before being caught. Credit: Plymouth Live

Ian Graham, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "She undertook cleaning, ironing and vacuuming. It was the polar opposite from what she had said in her claim forms."

Jailing her for 33 weeks, a judge said she was legitimately entitled to “only a fraction” of the money she received, adding that immediate imprisonment was necessary as she had swindled £51,293 over an extended period.

Recorder Tim Nesbit said she had “grossly exaggerated” her healthcare needs.

You represented that your physical disabilities meant you could not perform certain activities, including at various points walking very far, ironing and driving. You said that you needed help preparing meals and needed the help of carers.

– Recorder Tim Nesbit
Lagrue claimed she was disabled but was in fact busy working as a cleaner. Credit: Plymouth Live

It was also revealed Lagrue not only lied about her disability but failed to tell the authorities she was earning too much money to be eligible for benefits.

She pleaded guilty to making false claims about her health to obtain Disability Living Allowance in May 2012 and to lying to the DWP in order to claim the successor benefit, Personal Independence Payment, in April 2016.

Lagrue also pleaded guilty to dishonestly failing to notify Plymouth City Council of a change of circumstances in a claim for council tax relief between April 2012 and March 2013.

She also admitted similar charges for Employment Support Allowance and housing benefit between April 2012 and July 2015. Lagrue deliberately failed to tell the authorities she was working and earning above the allowed limit on both counts.

The money Lagrue swindled is being clawed back by the DWP. Credit: Plymouth Live

Nick Lewin, for Lagrue, who has no previous convictions, said her probation report showed she played a “really useful part” in her family’s life, providing respite care for an autistic grandchild.

He added: “If she had honestly set out the difficulties she had on a day to day basis, she may well have been entitled to some sort of benefit.

£50,000 is a shocking figure, but the benefit she would have received is likely to have been significant.

– Nick Lewin, defence

Assessing her chances of appearing in front of a court in future as "virtually zero," Mr Lewin said Lagrue had genuine difficulties around her physical and mental health but these were not spelt out in court.

He added she had been plagued by the “horror of prison” hanging over her and suffered “public humiliation” at the hands of the media.

Lagrue had pleaded guilty in October 2019 but her sentencing was adjourned for a knee operation. The Crown Prosecution Service stated that the money was being clawed back from her by the DWP.