Tracy Johnson, the former model and author living the high life whilst claiming income support, disability living allowance, plus housing and council tax benefits, has been brought down to earth in a joint prosecution by Brighton & Hove City Council and the Department for Work and Pensions.
Yesterday (23 April) Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court handed Ms Johnson a 12 months jail sentence.
Ms Johnson, 52, dishonestly claimed £10,557.96 in housing benefit and £1,686.20 from the council over a two year period - over £12,000 in all. She said she was living at Flat 3, 30 Adelaide Crescent in Hove and was a house-bound agoraphobic who was chronically afraid of other people.
In fact, Ms Johnson was travelling the world, enjoying trips to Argentina, India, New York and Madrid.
The fraud came to light when Brighton & Hove’s officers received a housing benefit claim from a third party claiming to rent Ms Johnson’s flat from her as she had gone travelling.
Ms Johnson subsequently moved to Wales but continued to live abroad while claiming benefits in the UK. The combined overpayments to her were more than £50,000, with offences continuing up until 2012.
Penny Wood, senior benefits fraud investigator with Brighton & Hove City Council, said: “This was a blatant attempt to gain a number of benefits to fund a luxury lifestyle. This money belongs to taxpayers and is there to help those in need. We will continue to track down those who are abusing the system and work with partner organisations to make sure fraud is exposed and those who take money in this way are prosecuted.”