A mother and daughter have today been sentenced for money laundering and benefit fraud offences.
Emma Bent has been sentenced to two and a half years.
Her mother, Sonia Lomas, received nine months, suspended for two years.
Bent, of Steep Turnpike, Matlock, admitted swindling thousands of pounds in housing and council tax benefit and income support – at a time when she already had a job.
Lomas, of Hilary Place, Ilkeston, was charged with money laundering, concealing criminal property, perverting the course of justice and forgery.
It was alleged she had allowed her daughter to put fraudulent benefits into her bank account, buying a plot of land for £25,000 with the proceeds of Bent’s fraud, and perverting the course of justice during police interviews.
Lomas denied the charges but on Tuesday, January 12, a jury at Derby Crown Court found the 61-year-old guilty of those three charges.
The pair were also charged with forging a tenancy document that Bent submitted to Derbyshire Dales District Council in order to claim housing benefit.
Bent pleaded guilty to that charge, while Lomas was cleared of it after the trial.
Their crimes came to light after police launched an investigation into 40-year-old Bent’s finances, following her conviction for offences in connection with her Peak Pet Cremations business – from which she made £88,000.
Pet owners paid Bent to incinerate their deceased animals and return their ashes. But, after several dead pets were found in hedgerows in Derbyshire, police discovered she had not been incinerating the animals.
In 2011, she was sentenced to eight months in prison for fraud, environmental health and trading standards in connection with Peak Pet Cremations.
Her finances were also investigated so that the proceeds of her crime could be recovered but only £3,100 was identified, which she was ordered to pay back later that year.
Further investigations by police revealed that Bent had hidden her assets and claimed thousands of pounds in house and council tax benefit and income support, which were later transferred to and used by Lomas.
Detective Constable Alastair Murray, of the East Midlands Regional Asset Recovery Team, is the officer in the case. He said: “Bent’s crimes were calculated and determined and have cost the authorities more than £91,000.
“She was callous to involve her mother because without her, she would have found it difficult to commit the offences.
“Everyone in the country is affected by cases like this. Such fraud makes it more costly and difficult for the authorities to allocate welfare to those people who rightfully require such assistance.
“I hope the sentences given today act as deterrent to those people greedy enough to apply for benefits they have no right to.”
DC Murray said that to date, Bent had repaid £14,439.
Bent’s sentence was made up of 20 months for fraud, six months to be served concurrently for forgery, two years to be served concurrently for money laundering and six months to be served consecutively for perverting the course of justice.
Sonia Lomas was sentenced to a total of nine months which was suspended for two years. She was also ordered to complete 100 hours unpaid work.
The sentence was made up of 26 weeks to be served concurrently for money laundering and nine months for perverting the course of justice to be served consecutively.