Benefit cheat mum on the run: Hunt for Dawn Orton after £29,000 fraud conviction at Hull Crown Court
AN INTERNATIONAL warrant has been issued for the arrest of a woman who fraudulently claimed thousands of pounds in benefits.
Mum-of-two Dawn Orton is being hunted by police after she was convicted of benefit fraud in her absence at Hull Crown Court.
She is believed to be hiding in Spain after defrauding taxpayers out of £29,000 by failing to declare she was living with a man for more than 13 years.
Hull Crown Court heard she is also believed to have claimed tens of thousands of pounds in incapacity benefits, despite playing badminton for a club in Cottingham and going skiing.
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The court heard she used the money to fund up to four luxury holidays a year and drove a high-performance car.
Judge Jeremy Richardson QC said: "This is a serious case where a woman has abused a valuable public benefit designed to assist widowed mothers with dependant children.
"This fraud has been going on for many years and helped facilitate a lavish lifestyle."
The court heard Orton, 47, had been claiming incapacity benefit for a shoulder injury despite running a craft shop in Cottingham and taking part in sports.
When her husband died in 1996 she was given the chance to claim Widowed Mothers Allowance instead of incapacity benefit as it was a larger sum.
But within a year she had moved in with her new partner Mark Lissimore in Cottingham and failed to declare she was no longer single.
After 13 years of living with Mr Lissimore she eloped to America with a new partner and her offending came to light.
She is now believed to be living in Spain and refused to return to Hull for her trial.
A jury at Hull Crown Court unanimously convicted her of two counts of benefit fraud after just 30 minutes of deliberations.
Orton was convicted of defrauding the taxpayer out of £29,000, which was the difference between the incapacity benefit she was originally claiming and the Widowed Mothers Allowances she had illegally obtained.
The court heard she has claimed more than £100,000 for incapacity benefit for her shoulder injury.
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said it would have prosecuted her further if there had been more evidence.
Judge Richardson QC said: "Following the death of her husband in 1996 the defendant, who was the mother of two children, claimed Widowed Mothers Allowance. In order to receive it a woman was required to be single and not in a relationship. If such a relationship should arise they were required to report that to the DWP.
"In late 1996 the defendant formed a relationship having previously claimed the allowance. At no stage in the next 13-and-a-half years did she ever report she was in a relationship akin to marriage with Mr Lissimore.
"She has obtained in excess of £29,000 from public funds for which she was not entitled to. It all came to light when the relationship tumbled to its demise in 2010.
"I shall not pass sentence on her for any suspicion I harbour in respect of her committing fraud for incapacity benefit, given she was able to ski and regularly play badminton at Cottingham Badminton Club.
"The defendant appears to have led a comfortable life with regular foreign holidays and purchased at least one luxury motor car – a Mercedes Benz.
"The amount of £29,000 over 13 years will not itself furnish a lavish lifestyle but it made a valuable contribution to the family finances over the years."
Orton has been sentenced to 12 months imprisonment and will be jailed when she is caught.
She will also face charges of absconding.
DWP Minister for Welfare Reform, Lord Freud said: "It's cases like this that show us why tough action and welfare reform is so needed.
"Our welfare reforms, particularly Universal Credit, will make the system simpler and less open to abuse.
"We're also cracking down on benefit fraud on the frontline and our investigators work tirelessly to catch these thieves and bring them to justice.
"The vast majority of those on benefits are law abiding people who need our help. But for those who try to cheat the system, our message is very clear – you are committing a crime and we will catch you."