A mother of eight has been told to expect jail after fraudulently pocketing more than £350,000 in benefits and tax credits by claiming five of her children were ‘disabled’.
Amanda Webber said that her children had dozens of physical and mental problems including poor co-ordination, lack of spatial awareness, difficulties walking, unclear speech and a fear of crowds.
In reality, they were high achievers who attended private school and had performed in West End shows such as Oliver!, Billy Elliot and Les Miserables.
Four of the supposedly disabled children had joined two siblings to audition for the television show Britain’s Got Talent under the name the Von Webbers.
After a five-week trial, Webber, 43, was found guilty at Brighton Crown Court yesterday of receiving around £353,000 in state handouts over eight years from 2002 to her arrest at her seven-bedroom mansion in Sussex in November 2009.
The false payments relate to disability living allowance, carer’s allowance, tax credits and housing and council tax benefit.
At the height of her fraud, Webber and her husband, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were receiving more than £10,000 a month in tax-free benefits and credits.
That’s the equivalent of a tax-paying worker earning an annual salary of around £215,000.
When officers raided her home, they found two cars, one of which was registered to a child under the Motability scheme.
Inside the house they found a grand piano and two walls covered with certificates of achievement earned by the children.
There was also a large rehearsal studio, with another piano, a large keyboard and rows of theatrical costumes.
Three-times-married Webber, now believed to be in a lesbian relationship, denied 24 counts including fraud, obtaining a money transfer by deception and obtaining property by deception.
She shook her head in the dock yesterday when she was convicted of all but one count – making a false representation. Prosecutors believe it is one of the biggest ever single person benefit frauds.
Judge Anthony Niblett yesterday told Webber she was a ‘very dishonest woman’ and would face a ‘substantial custodial sentence’ when she is sentenced today.
All her children had attended private schools and three of those she claimed were disabled had attended a fee-paying stage school in London which involved travelling alone by train and Tube.
The schools they attended were unaware the children had any learning difficulties or communication or walking problems.
In fact, school reports revealed the children had been successful academically and participated in PE classes, drama and dance.
During the trial, the jury was shown a video of a hour-long performance of Bugsy Malone, featuring four of the five ‘disabled’ children, put on by a theatre company Webber had set up in 2008.
The court heard that between July 2007 and April 2008, the Webbers were receiving £10,148.91 tax-free a month.
This included £474.50 each for three of the children per month for mobility and care allowance, plus an extra £446.55 monthly care allowance for one of them.
Other children were awarded £261.08 and £353.60 per month in care and mobility allowance.
Mr Webber, who has since split from his wife, was receiving £1,911 per month in income support and £474.50 disability living allowance for diabetes and arthritis.
The family also received £445.47 a month in child benefit and £2,000 per month for housing benefit.
They were also awarded an average of £2,600 per month in tax credits.
Andrew Evans QC, told the jury that Webber had ‘spotted weaknesses in the system and exploited them to her advantage’.
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