A fraudster has been spared jail after pretending to be a father of three to claim child benefits.

Craig Pickett, 25, was caught lying to authorities after claiming he was caring for three children over a period of three years.

A court heard how he had applied for additional “hardship funds” while his Universal Credit claims were being processed by benefit staff.

Pickett, who is from Wrexham, North Wales, slipped through the net because national checks weren’t being carried out due to a national lockdown from coronavirus at the time.

Pickett’s own lawyer, though, told Mold Crown Court last week the young man had “acted so stupidly”.

But the crooked conman was given a six-month suspended prison sentence, rather than a jail spell. Laura Knightly, prosecuting, had said Pickett told the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) he was caring for a child named Junior Pickett – but the child does not exist, reports the Mirror.

He then “created” two more children, naming one as Jessica, Ms Knightly told the court.

Sentencing, Judge Timothy Petts told Pickett: “You told lies to the DWP. Benefit fraud is a waste of public money and we, the taxpayers, foot the cost indirectly.” The fraud – roughly amounting to £6,300 over the three years – was uncovered by benefits staff, the judge heard.

James Coutts, defending, said Pickett had so far repaid more than £5,000 of his false claims back to the DWP. He admitted Pickett went through planning especially when claiming for the imaginary children.

He added: “It is hard to fathom and understand the thought process and, to put it bluntly, how he could have acted so stupidly to do what he did. His actions were always going to be discovered.”

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