A FORMER HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) employee who lied about living with her husband to fraudulently claim £60,000 in tax credits has been ordered to carry out unpaid work.

Claire Robertson, of Dolphingstone View, Prestonpans, worked in the HMRC Debt Management unit and falsely claimed to be a single parent when in fact she was living with her husband.

The 34-year-old initially claimed the cash legitimately by stating she was a single woman but when her circumstances changed she failed to inform the authorities and continued claiming the benefits.

Robertson claimed the money under her maiden name of Wells but it was eventually found out she had married her husband Dale in 2008.

She was interviewed under caution in March last year after investigators found she was living with her partner and had provided false information to HMRC.

Robertson, who was an HMRC employee for 16 years until her dismissal in November last year, fraudulently claimed £60,000 in tax credits between 2011 and 2018.

Robertson admitted the offence at a hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court last month and she returned to court for sentencing on Thursday last week.

Sheriff Peter Braid was told that Robertson had paid the money back in full to HMRC and sentenced her to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work in the community as a direct alternative to a custodial sentence.

Sheriff Braid said: “The level of benefit fraud here is at an amount that the court could impose a significant period of custody.”

But the sheriff added that, due to Robertson’s early plea, the fact the money had been paid back in full and that she had claimed legitimately in the first place, he was persuaded not to jail her.

Previously, prosecutor Heather Carmichael had told the court that Robertson had “not advised the tax credit office of her marriage” and was claiming the cash as a single person.

Ms Carmichael said: “She was residing with her husband and the tax credits should not have been paid on that basis. Her husband’s income had not been taken into account.”

The fiscal added “the matter came under investigation and the accused was arrested” on March 27 last year.

Police arrived at her home with a search warrant and she was taken to St Leonard’s Police Station in Edinburgh to be processed.

Last week, her lawyer stated that the cash had been paid back and since the offence she had left her employment and was now in a position to carry out unpaid work.

Robertson admitted fraudulently obtaining tax credits amounting to £60,000 by claiming she was single with no other income when the truth was she was married to Dale Robertson, who was earning a salary, and obtained the money to which she was not entitled to at her home address between August 26, 2011, and March 27 last year.

Following her sentencing, Adrian De Ath, assistant director, internal governance at HMRC, said: “As an HMRC employee, Robertson was trusted by the public and her colleagues.

“She broke that trust and stole money that should have been paid to those who really needed it. But her deceit has now caught up with her.

“HMRC is committed to the highest level of integrity among our staff and we take the strongest possible action against the tiny minority who let us all down by falling short of those standards.”