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Monday, May 23, 2011

The groupie benefits cheat: Mother's £112,000 fraud funded her celebrity obsession

By Rebecca Camber

'My famous mates': Jayne McKnight poses for a picture with Susan Boyle. McKnight's £112,000 benefits fraud funded her celebrity obsession

A mother claimed her children and husband were severely disabled in a £112,000 benefits fraud to fund her obsession with celebrities.

Jayne McKnight, 45, pretended her four children aged ten to 25 had epilepsy and severe learning difficulties. In fact just one was epileptic.

She said her husband David, 47, had gout and could not work, when he too was perfectly healthy and worked as a van driver.

'Happiest at a gig': McKnight with Marvin from JLS. She pretended her children were epileptic - just one was - and that her husband had gout
She spent the cash on concert tickets and backstage passes, touring the country to meet her celebrity idols.

She posed for pictures with dozens of stars including Susan Boyle, Ronan Keating and the late Stephen Gately from Boyzone, and posted them on her social networking pages, describing them as ‘my famous mates’.

She followed other boy bands including Westlife, JLS and The Wanted on tour, persuading them to pose for a shot with her or her daughters, Samantha, 17, and Melissa, ten.

She travelled around the country to dozens of X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent auditions to meet contestants such as Alexandra Burke.

McKnight splashed out on flat-screen TVs, Xbox gaming consoles, hi-fi equipment and laptops for herself and the children, but investigators believe most of the cash went on tickets because McKnight said she was ‘happiest when at a gig’.

Initially she claimed in 2003 that just one of her children, who genuinely suffered from epilepsy, was severely disabled, pocketing £3,900 a year in child tax credits.

From 2006 she said all four children were severely disabled and that her husband was reliant on her care, boosting the payments to more than £15,000 a year.

She also pretended she was supporting her family by working as a temp, enabling her to claim £18,000 for non-existent childcare.

On tour: McKnight with the late Stephen Gately of Boyzone. She also splashed out on TVs, Xbox consoles, hi-fi equipment and laptops

The swindle was uncovered when investigators received a tip-off.

Even after she was caught, McKnight continued to cheat the system, making false claims for housing and council tax benefits two days after being arrested.

Investigators discovered that she had been convicted for family credit and income support fraud in 2000 when she was given a seven-year suspended sentence for four fraud offences and 127 others.

Now she faces jail after admitting tax credit fraud. She is due to appear at Wolverhampton magistrates’ court today for sentencing.

Wanted: McKnight with The Wanted. Magistrates at Wolverhampton are due to sentence McKnight for her fraud today

Mike O’Grady, assistant director of criminal investigation for HM Revenue and Customs, said: ‘Between 2003 and 2010 Jayne McKnight consistently lied about her circumstances, knowing full well that this would increase the amount of money she was awarded.

‘She probably thought she would never be found out, but she was wrong.

‘We are investing £900million in our drive against fraud, be that tax avoidance, evasion or criminal attack, and we will investigate suspicious claims and pursue fraudsters. We have a duty, the ability and the determination to do so.’

David Gauke, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said: ‘The Government will not tolerate dishonest people stealing public money which pays for vital services.

‘The extra £900million we have invested in HMRC allows them to step up the fight against benefit cheats and tax fraudsters.’



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