Holloway benefit cheat claimed �33,000 and owned six homes

A benefits cheat claimed more than �33,000 in state handouts despite owning a portfolio of six houses.

Julija Freiberga, 38, of Cottage Road, Holloway, fleeced the taxpayer by claiming she was unemployed and owned only one property – while secretly earning up to �60,000 a year in rent.

The Latvian national, who moved to the UK in 1999, also tricked officials by using her ex-husband’s name, Tanusi, in some of the applications for income support, jobseekers’ allowance, council tax credit and housing benefit.

She is now believed to own 10 properties in the UK, including houses in London, Peterborough and Lincoln, and another two in her home country, Blackfriars Crown Court heard last week.

Jailing her for 16 months, Judge Aidan Marron QC told Freiberga she was guilty of “systematic dishonesty over a protracted period”.

The eight illegitimate benefit claims, from which Freiberga, a former lifeguard, were made between May 2005 and August 2009. She admitted 16 counts of making a false statement to obtain benefits.

Stephen Hopper, prosecuting, said she had been earning between �50,000 and �60,000 a year in rent as she built up her property portfolio.

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But Tony Wyatt, defending, said Freiberga had become trapped in a ‘vicious circle’ after buying the houses with mortgages that she could not afford to repay. He said: “She was very much at the forefront of the sub-prime mortgage market, and she was purchasing properties which in reality she couldn’t afford.”

Mr Wyatt insisted the income was spent on the upkeep of the houses and said she felt she needed the benefit money to “survive”. He continued: “It isn’t quite the case of somebody who just decided that they wanted to supplement an already-significant income to maintain a lavish lifestyle.”

He added that she was now claiming benefits legitimately.