A Department for Work and Pensions caseworker has been jailed for defrauding the public purse to the tune of £41,446.50 by diverting cash into accounts set up using other people’s National Insurance numbers.
Lauren Wainwright admitted the frauds – which took place via more than 50 transfers over a period of several months in 2017 and 2018 – at Blackpool Magistrates Court last month.
Wainwright, of Thornton in Lancashire, was handed a 12-month custodial sentence at Preston Crown Court last week.
The hearing was told that Wainwright had begun directing funds into her account four months after starting work in her administrative-officer grade role, and that the misappropriated cash had been used to pay off family debts.
In sentencing, Judge Graham Knowles said Wainwright had committed a crime that amounted to a “serious and persistent abuse” of her position.
“This is an offence that dealt with public spending. No civil servant, even one with only months of service, could be unaware of the pressures on departmental budgets,” he said.
“No reasonably intelligent person living in this country could be unaware of that. That money you took was funded by taxation of people being paid for the honest work they had done.”
A DWP spokesperson said the department, which administers benefits and other payments to around 20 million people, had “zero-tolerance towards fraud”.
“Any suspected cases are investigated by specialist staff who will refer all evidence immediately to the police, and we fully support any criminal investigations,” they said.
“Employees are subject to disciplinary action and dismissed where wrongdoing is proven.”
Wainwright will face a proceeds of crime hearing later in the year. It will examine whether any of the funds defrauded from DWP can be recovered.