A brazen fraudster who lavished cash on cosmetic surgery and a Peloton bike while concealing £48,000 has been ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work within 12 months. Mercedes Bradley, 31, was claiming Universal Credit while also holding a secret bank account to receive payments from “ex-boyfriends”, one of whom transferred her over £30,000 alone, before being caught by DWP.
Bradley used the stolen taxpayer cash to live on while spending tens of thousands of pounds on cosmetic surgery including a breast lift and designer dental work.
After receiving a tip-off, DWP’s Financial Investigation Unit team questioned Bradley. She claimed the payments were from various ex-boyfriends, who transferred her £47,780 in total.
DWP also discovered Bradley used the money to pay for luxuries including a personal trainer and a £4,000 Peloton exercise bike.
This was all while fraudulently claiming a total of £9,147.11 in Universal Credit between March 2020 and August 2021. Bradley had been claiming the benefit legitimately from June 2018 to March 2020.
Following the court hearing yesterday, Bradley, from Gloucestershire, was sentenced to a 12-month community order with a requirement of 150 hours unpaid work. She will also face a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing in the spring.
Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Tom Pursglove MP, said: “I’m pleased to see justice being done in this case where DWP investigators have successfully tracked down a prolific fraudster who was clearly taking the taxpayer for a ride.
“Benefit fraud is a crime that diverts money away from those who really need it, which is why we’re investing £600million to prevent, detect, and deter fraudsters from abusing the system.
“Today’s sentencing shows how the DWP is using all the powers at our disposal to catch fraudsters and protect the public purse.”
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Earlier this year the DWP launched a robust plan to further drive down fraud and error from the benefits system.
The “Fighting Fraud in the Welfare System” plan bolsters the counter-fraud frontline significantly with measures including the hiring of 2,000 trained specialists to review millions of Universal Credit claims, estimated to prevent around £2billion in fraud over three years.
Additional actions include requirements for organisations, such as banks, to share data securely on an increased scale to check levels of savings and whether claimants are living abroad. There are also plans to increase DWP officers’ powers to conduct searches, seize evidence, and make arrests.
The new plan will extend the DWP’s powers and improve its ability to access information, significantly strengthening the Department’s ability to drive fraud out of the benefit system and protect the public purse.
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The DWP is also investing a further £280million, announced at the Autumn Statement, to increase levels of protection against fraud and error over the next two years.
This investment will enable us to review the majority of Universal Credit claims, crack down on those who seek to abuse the system and tackle organised criminals who seek to attack it.