A PROLIFIC benefit fraudster who embezzled more than £25,000 from her dementia sufferer father-in-law has avoided jail.
Belinda Fields (54), of High Street, Whiston, claimed £5,122 in carer’s allowance for looking after Bernard Fields for almost two years despite him living in a care home.
She also took £10,401 of benefits from him and rented out his house without his knowledge, earning £10,800.
Fields — who has six previous convictions for benefit fraud — was given an 18-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, at Sheffield Crown Court last Thursday (13).
Mr Fields (85) had been living in a house on West Bawtry Road with his son, Paul Fields, and the defendant, before moving to a care home in June 2015, Mr Kevin James, prosecuting said.
Fields claimed a carer’s allowance for looking after her father-in-law when they lived together, but did not stop claiming it when he moved into residential care — pocketing £5,122.
Fields moved out of the West Bawtry Road property to her sister-in-law’s home in High Street, Whiston.
She rented out her father-in-law’s house without his knowledge and earned a further £10,800, Mr James said.
Fields’ father-in-law received £329-a-month in disability living allowance and a £128-a-week state pension to his Post Office account, which he stopped accessing after moving to a care home.
Instead, Fields netted a total of £10,104 from the account without his knowledge, the court heard.
The victim believed Fields was looking after his finances and using the money to pay care home fees.
“By October 2015, the care home hadn’t been paid and there were arrears of some £9,000,” said the prosecutor.
Fields’ social worker met with her a month later to discuss her father-in-law’s financial affairs and she claimed the money had been used to pay outstanding bills.
By April 2016, Fields owed the care home around £20,000 and at that point her care worker took steps to stop her benefits and contact the police.
Fields was interviewed and admitted receiving carer’s allowance and controlling her father-in-law’s Post Office account.
She admitted fraud and two counts of theft on the day she was due to stand trial at Sheffield Crown Court in October.
Fields was previously convicted in November, 2000, of four counts of making false statements to obtain benefits and in January, 2003, she was convicted for two counts of making a dishonest representation to obtain benefits.
She has also been convicted of stealing from her employer.
Mr James Baird, mitigating, said Fields had cared for her father-in-law for seven years in “very difficult circumstances”.
He added: “His condition of dementia gave rise to frequent aggressive outbursts and sexually inappropriate behaviour and she had to deal with these matters as well as dealing with his personal matters."
Fields’ support worker “spoke very highly of her” and had seen nothing that caused him concern, Mr Baird said.
“The defendant said much of the money was spent on [her father-in-law’s] home, which was rented out,” he added.
Judge Michael Slater said he could suspend Fields’ prison sentence because her father-in-law’s support worker spoke so highly of her and because she was responsible for a 14-year-old child.
Judge Slater said: “At the end of the day, you committed a serious breach of trust and at the end of that you had ongoing care home fees of £20,000 which fell to the public purse.
“That’s money that could have been spent on other people in other care homes legitimately.”