An actress has been given a six-year prison sentence in a huge case of benefits fraud.
Ethel McGill, 68, stole £740,000 of taxpayers cash, going to extreme lengths to cover up her lies.
She tricked authorities into believing her father Robert Dennison was still alive and was allowed to continue to claim his war pension and benefits despite his death in 2004.
On one occasion she got a friend to lie under a blanket and pretend to be her at her home in Runcorn, Cheshire.
She feigned dementia and faked mobility issues for more than 20 years but was caught out when she was filmed moving without assistance and driving despite saying she needed a wheelchair.
She even appeared at Liverpool Crown Court today in a wheelchair carrying a pack of incontinence pads that she used to try and cover her face from photographers.
Judge Steven Everett told McGill: ‘Part of your problem is that nobody, including me, believes that you are ill, and that you have been putting this on for years.
‘Your devious behaviour, with very little remorse, has caught up with you and now you will have to pay the penalty.
‘With breathtaking dishonesty you decided to use your father’s death to your financial benefit, what a terrible thing to do.
‘It wasn’t even for a short amount of time – for year after year you, in a sense, sullied your father’s name – he was entitled to a war pension.
‘When the authorities came to your house to see your father you got somebody to lie in that bed and pretend to be your elderly father and you put the authorities off by persuading them not to approach that person.’
He also hit out at those behind the benefits system for failing to spot what was going on.
He said: ‘The authorities may look at themselves and wonder how they let this happen and they don’t come out of this at all well but the whole dishonesty come down to you – you did it.’
Her defence barrister Dan Gaskell said she should get a short sentence because she never lived a lavish lifestyle.
He said: ‘She lives in fairly straightened circumstances. There is no indication that she has lived a life of excess.’
However, the judge pointed out that she was making ‘way more than the average person in the street.
Stephen Pendered, of the CPS, said: ‘This is the largest case of benefit fraud by a single person that I have prosecuted.
‘Not content with receiving her father’s pensions, housing and tax benefits under false pretences, Ethel McGill made good use of her amateur dramatic skills by feigning dementia to succeed in her own fraudulent benefit claims.
‘Over the course of 25 years, McGill shamelessly received £750,000 of public money she knew full well she was not entitled to.
‘The lengths Ethel McGill and her family went through to cheat a system designed for people in need is truly staggering.
‘However, we were able to dismantle their deception one lie at a time.
‘We hope this prosecution will help the public to have confidence that those who cheat the public purse will face the full force of the law.
‘The CPS will now endeavour to ensure taxpayers get some of their money back by pursuing McGill under the Proceeds of Crime Act.’
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