A WOMAN who claimed benefits despite having £36,000 in a bank account has been given a suspended prison sentence.
Julia Carl was paid £73,000 in benefits to which she was not entitled.
She had failed to tell officials about a £36,000 legacy which was in an offshore bank account.
The 64-year-old carried on claiming income support and pension credit.
She did not spend any of the legacy on herself because she was keeping it safe for her son, Exeter Crown Court heard.
It all came to light when investigators were tipped off by a financial adviser who she visited for investment advice.
Carl, of The Strand, Bideford, admitted three charges of obtaining benefits by deception. She was given a nine-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered to do 120 hours unpaid community work.
Recorder Mr Andrew Oldland said the fact she was preserving the £36,000 for the benefit of her son was a very significant factor. He said: "It seems this does not have the cynical dishonesty which often characterises offences of this nature.
"There is no evidence of high living and you are a woman of 64 of good character."
Beth Heaton, prosecuting, said between 1999 and 2011 Carl overclaimed £73,707.20 in income support, pension credit, housing and council tax benefits. The £36,000 inheritance from an aunt was in a bank account in her own name in the Isle of Man.
Richard Crabb, defending, said Carl never considered the money as her own and felt she was holding it in trust for her son, who was 24 at the time she received the money in 1993.
She did not pass it on and never told him about it because he had problems with substance abuse. She feared he would die if he had access to the cash.
Mr Crabb said: "Although this is said to be an offshore account, it was actually with Alliance & Leicester and was in the Isle of Man because someone told her she could get a better rate of interest there.
"It is not as if it was a numbered account in Switzerland.
"This offence came to light when she went to see an independent financial adviser to ask what to do about the account. They rather unhelpfully told her they could not give her advice.
"Shortly afterwards she was told she was being investigated and it seems likely they reported her under their money laundering obligations."