An ex-civil servant couple who enjoyed luxury Caribbean cruises funded by a six-year £150,000 benefit fraud were caught when the ‘disabled’ wife was seen on video dancing to Mariah Carey.
Former local government employees Lisa White and Andrew White, both 56, ran two cafes and had a secret seafront apartment in Broadstairs, Kent, which they boasted of in a magazine.
But investigators from the Royal Borough of Greenwich in London found footage of Mrs White dancing around a cafe to the song 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.
Yesterday at Inner London Crown Court, she sobbed during the three-hour hearing and was jailed for 18 months – while her husband got nine months, suspended for two years.
Judge Tudor Owen said of the video: ‘She’s dancing around. I can see why she’s happy; if I was getting money for nothing, I’d be happy.’
White was captured on CCTV struggling with a walking stick when applying for a new council house, but was enjoying her secret life on the south coast.
The couple own 30 Grand Mansions at 30 Queen’s Gardens in Broadstairs but she swindled the borough by claiming she shared a council flat with her 84-year-old mother in Eltham, South East London.
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.
Mrs White (left) pleaded guilty to nine counts of fraud, three of failing to notify a change in her medical circumstances and one count of money laundering
The couple own a property in Broadstairs but Mrs White swindled the borough by claiming she shared a council flat with her 84-year-old mother Angela Dempsey (pictured) in Eltham
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 Ms Taylor, of Islington, North London, were charged with aiding and abetting fraud and money laundering respectively, but the prosecution offered no evidence against them.
The couple bought the Broadstairs flat in 2007 and in 2009 Mrs White was the highest bidder to take over the seafront Bandstand Kiosk, a cafe called Beyond The Sea.
‘My dream by the age of 50 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 Mr White, her full-time carer, lived in Broadstairs, while Mrs White claimed to reside in Eltham.
Sentencing of the couple: Mrs White sobbed during the three-hour court hearing and received 18 months’ imprisonment while her husband got nine months, suspended for two years.
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.
The couple enjoyed five nights on the Queen Elizabeth 2 cruise liner, a 21-day Mediterranean cruise on the Queen Victoria and a £5,500 26-night Caribbean cruise on the Oceana.
Then, after their arrest, they also went on a 28-night £9,000 New York and Caribbean cruise on the Queen Mary 2.
When arrested at their rented 25 Grand Mansions flat in September 2015, Mrs White 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.
An investigation was launched in June 2014 because Mr White (right), her full-time carer, lived in Broadstairs, while Mrs White (left) claimed to reside in Eltham
The couple met when working for Camden council and have two children, aged in their 20s, while Mr White has a background in physical education.
He 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.
The couple bought the Broadstairs flat in 2007 and in 2009 Mrs White was the highest bidder to take over the seafront Bandstand Kiosk (pictured), a cafe called Beyond The Sea
‘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 29-night cruise on the Queen Mary 2.
‘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.
Even after their arrest the couple went on a 28-night £9,000 New York and Caribbean cruise on the Queen Mary 2
‘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.
‘You were exaggerating your needs to cheat your way up the housing list. You wanted to get in front of other people by saying you had these great needs, everything you did was cheating.’
After the case, Greenwich councillor Maureen O’Mara said: ‘Mrs White presented herself as a severely disabled woman, needing daily care with everyday tasks, and was making full use of all the benefits available to her.
‘She was not genuinely in need. Indeed, she carried out a deliberate and sustained fraud, stealing a staggering amount of money – money meant for people who are genuinely in need.
‘She fully deserves this sentence, and the criminal record that will now follow her.’