|Lisa & Andrew White|
A former civil service couple enjoyed luxury cruises to the Med and Caribbean during their “dream” life funded by a six-year £152,000 benefit fraud.
Ex-local government employees Lisa Annette White, 56, and Andrew Mark White, 56, ran two cafe’s and had a secret seafront apartment in Broadstairs, Kent, which they boasted of in a local magazine.
Investigators from the Royal Borough of Greenwich found footage of Mrs White dancing around The White House cafe to Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You.’
She was receiving disability payments after telling the council she needed oxygen tanks to aid her breathing, needed help dressing and a walking-stick indoors and a wheelchair outside.
Last week at Inner London Crown Court she sobbed throughout the thee-hour hearing and received 18 months imprisonment and her husband received nine months, suspended for two years.
“She’s dancing around. I can see why she’s happy, if I was getting money for nothing, I’d be happy,” said Judge Tudor Owen.
White was captured on CCTV struggling with a walking stick when applying for a new council house at the council’s Woolwich Centre, but was enjoying her secret life on the south coast.
The couple own 30 Grand Mansions, 30 Queen’s Gardens, but Mrs White swindled the borough by claiming she shared a council flat with her 84 year-old mother in Teynham House, Alderwood Road, Eltham.
Mrs White pleaded guilty to nine counts of fraud; three of failing to notify a change in her medical circumstances and one count of money laundering.
Mr. White admitted one count of aiding and abetting his wife make a false representation to get on the council’s housing waiting list and laundering £12,800.
She claimed disability, based on obesity, in 1995, but after a gastric band op in 2005 her weight plunged from 27 stone to 13 stone.
However, she kept claiming Disability Living Allowance, Incapacity Benefit, Employment Support Allowance and her husband and sister Karen Taylor, 62, were her paid carers, with the council even giving her a disabled parking permit.
Her mother, Angela Dempsey, and Karen, of 49 Queen’s Head Street, Islington were charged with aiding and abetting fraud and money laundering respectively, but the prosecution offered no evidence against them.
The couple bought the mansion block flat in 2007 and in 2009 Lisa was the highest bidder to take over the seafront Bandstand Kiosk, a cafe called ‘Beyond The Sea.’
“My dream by the age of fifty was to live in Grand Mansions and own the Bandstand Kiosk,” she cooed in a local magazine. “Both dreams have come true and I love it.”
An investigation was launched in June, 2014 because Andrew, her full-time carer, lived in Broadstairs, while Lisa claimed to reside in Eltham.
However, the council’s surveillance team filmed her loading up cafe stock from wholesalers, carrying shopping bags in Bluewater, carrying suitcases, serving customers and walking unaided.
|Living The Dream: Secret Beachfront Apartment|
The couple enjoyed five nights on the QE2 cruise liner; a 21-day Mediterranean cruise on the Queen Victoria; a £5,500 26-night Caribbean cruise on the Oceana and after their arrest a 28-night £9,000 New York and Caribbean cruise on the Queen Mary 2.
When arrested at a separate rented flat, 25 Grand Mansions, on September 28, 2015 Lisa claimed she did not live there and insisted she needed her walking stick, which was locked in her car a five-minute walk away.
“She was exhibiting extreme difficulty that the crown say was more acting,” said prosecutor Mr. James Fletcher.
The couple met when working for Camden council and have two children, aged in their twenties and Mr. White has a background in physical education.
Andrew became a governor at St. Joseph’s primary school in Greenwich and they both receive pensions from their long civil service careers.
“Significant sums of money were defrauded from the taxpayer by you, Lisa White,” Judge Owen told her. “You claimed a variety of different benefits, representing you were disabled and needed care and support and were living in the Royal Borough of Greenwich.
“The victims are people who pay tax that has been given to the likes of you in the form of benefits.
“You carried on this fraud for six years. You took advantage of the system.
“I am told by you that you are remorseful and I have no doubt you are sorry you were caught. I’m not convinced your remorse is genuine.
“Even after you were arrested you then went on a cruise, you both took a twenty-eight night cruise on the Queen Mary Two.
“You were cruising around the Caribbean, no doubt full of remorse. Of course not.
“You had a liking for the Caribbean. There was no reaction from you that: ‘The games up, let’s put money aside’ no, you were cruising around the Caribbean.
“You carried on this act that you had great difficulty walking, that you need your stick from the car and were struggling to walk, but there’s abundant evidence you weren’t in that condition at all.
“You made out you were much more disabled than you actually are, you seem to be struggling with every step, bravely soldiering on, barely able to walk.