A diplomatic corps interpreter is to be forced to sell her home and move into rented accommodation so she can repay taxpayers £33,000 she fiddled in benefits.
Catherine Keary, 63, claimed the money in income support and housing benefits by failing to disclose she was living with a partner who was working. Now she has been ordered to repay the cash, with interest, or go to jail for 18 months. She has been given a year to sell her North Devon home to raise the money.
Keary, of Kimberley Terrace, Northam, admitted failing to notify a change of circumstances and two offences of making false statements when she appeared at Exeter Crown Court in May. She was jailed for 26 weeks, suspended for 12 months and the case was adjourned for confiscation proceedings.
Keary swindled £33,795.78 between 2006 and 2011 when she was living with boyfriend Ian Caseley, who had a job. She had been claiming income support legitimately since 1991 but lied on official forms from 2006 onwards, meaning all her claims for pension credit had been fraudulent.
Judge Barry Cotter, QC, ordered her to repay £33,000 after being told the equity in her home had been valued at £93,000. He set a jail term of 18 months in default and ordered £400 costs.
Lee Bremridge, defending, said Keary was the full-time carer for her elderly mother who would also lose her home when it was sold.
He said: "She is going to have to sell her home and rent somewhere with her mother who is in her 90s and lives with her. Once she has satisfied this order she will be left with £20,000 to £30,000 and that will be all she has."
Keary's career as an interpreter working at the American Embassy in Germany had been ruined by illness and she had come back to Britain to look after her mother.