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‘Dishonest and corrupt’ DWP worker jailed for £40k universal credit fraud

A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) employee who paid herself more than £40,000 in universal credit payments has pleaded guilty to fraud and been jailed for a year.

Lauren Wainwright, 32, used claimants’ national insurance numbers to make 54 separate fraudulent payments to her own bank account, Preston Crown Court heard.

She was described by judge Graham Knowles QC as “thoroughly dishonest and corrupt,” and in sentencing Wainwright said her crimes of stealing publicly funded money were a “serious and persistent abuse of her position.”

The caseworker from Thornton Cleveleys, Lancashire, was caught making a suspicious payment in July 2017, sparking an internal investigation which revealed she had made 54 payments totalling £41,500 using the national insurance numbers of 12 universal credit claimants.

She started making the payments four months into her £18,000-a-year job at the DWP, with the fraudulent payments continuing into 2018.

Wainwright’s lawyer, Daniel Prowse, claimed his client had only used the money to pay the bills and debts caused by her husbands gambling addiction, and she pleaded guilty to the fraud charges.

After her arrest, Wainwright told police: “All the other trainees laughed about how easy it was, and I was the idiot that tried it.”

Judge Knowles sentenced her to a year in jail and said: “What you did was more serious because of the cost to the public. That money was funded by taxation from people who are paid for the work they have done.”

Wainwright now faces proceeds of crime hearing which will determine how much of the £40,000 she will have to pay back.

“The offending was persistent and repeated and via the abuse of your position as a civil servant administering universal credit.”

The DWP stated: “We have zero-tolerance towards fraud. Any suspected cases are investigated by specialist staff who will refer all evidence immediately to the police.”

 Image credit - Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA Archive/PA Images


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