“Letters (I have read) write of a mistake or a moment of madness. There was no mistake by you. There was no moment of madness.”
Joanne Stephenson, 51, and Stephen Taylor, 47, have been jailed for three years each after admitting fraud from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) where they worked for more than 20 years.
Between April and September 2019 the couple from Blackpool, diverted funds intended for seriously ill customers to Stephenson’s personal bank account.
Preston Crown Court heard romance blossomed between Stephenson, an administrative officer, and Taylor, an executive officer, after they spoke at a Christmas party in December 2017.
They moved in together and planned to tie the knot in January 2020.
In April 2019, Stephenson was signed off work with stress but she returned in July to forge signatures and documents to facilitate the fraud, the court heard.
Within a month their wedding had been paid for, along with a honeymoon and a holiday to Bulgaria.
When Taylor, the more senior employee, learned of her deception, he asked her to stop but “turned a blind eye” as he was also benefiting from the scam.
They were arrested in December 2019 following an investigation and pleaded guilty to fraud by employee.
“Letters (I have read) write of a mistake or a moment of madness. There was no mistake by you. There was no moment of madness.
“There was a persistent course of gross and blatant dishonesty to line your pockets and give you a lifestyle you could not afford and you did it at the expense of not the taxpayer, but at the expense of the vulnerable people who were claimants for disability living allowance – those whose lives you knew.”
Stephenson later told a probation officer she was frustrated that the caravan they had bought had been seized as they were unable to rent it out and it had depreciated in value.