A 51-YEAR-OLD woman who fraudulently claimed more than £75,000 has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Yvonne Higgins, of Ogilvie Road, High Wycombe, will have to pay back all the money she claimed over a period of six years.

She pleaded guilty to eight charges of dishonestly making false statements in order to obtain a total of £76,234.92.

She claimed £29,599.16 in housing benefit and £9,675.26 in council tax benefit from Wycombe District Council and £36,960.60 of income support from the Department for Work and Pensions.

A joint investigation by the council and the Department for Work and Pensions revealed Mrs Higgins had been claiming benefits as a single person for six years, even though her partner - who worked full-time - had been living with her throughout.

She married her partner in August 2008 but still did not declare a change in her circumstances to either the Council or the DWP, Wycombe District Council said today.

Yesterday she was sentenced to 12 months in prison suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid community work when she appeared at Aylesbury Crown Court.

She was also ordered to pay costs of £1,634.20.

The offences, which date back to 2003, came to light following an anonymous tip-off to the council.

Cllr Roger Wilson, Wycombe District Council's Cabinet Member for Performance and Finance, said today: "This sentence sends out a strong message that Wycombe District Council does not tolerate benefit cheats.

“It also should serve as a reminder to all of those who claim benefits and have had a change in their circumstances to let us know as soon as possible, because we will find out."

Anyone who suspects that someone is committing benefit fraud can email fraudinvestigations@wycombe.gov.uk or phone 0800 015 8995.