A couple who went on luxury holidays to Dubai and US while posing as landlord and tenant as part of a £108,000 benefits scam have been jailed for total of four years.
Jonathan Lucas, 38, and Melissa Ellis, 34, pocketed £108,754 of taxpayers’ money by claiming benefits that they were not entitled to, Liverpool Crown Court heard earlier today.
The pair had been pocketing the money for nine years despite living in a plush home in Huyton, Merseyside, and taking their three children on flashy holidays to America, Dubai and Portugal.
Jonathan Lucas, 38, and Melissa Ellis, 34, pocketed £108,754 of taxpayers’ money by claiming benefits that they were not entitled to for nine years
Their home, which was protected by security gates, had a convoy of vehicles including a Jaguar, Mercedes, Range Rover and a Transit van with a trailer on their driveway.
The garage at the side of the house contained building tools and materials as well as a ‘J & L Landscaping’ sign at the back.
There were also four mountain bikes, one large scrambler bike and two smaller bikes.
Suspicious fraud investigators for the Department for Work and Pensions eventually snared the couple after visiting the four-bedroom house.
Lucas and Ellis, who illegally claimed the benefits between 2008 and 2017, were living together as husband and wife.
But Ellis had been claiming housing benefit as a tenant before paying it to her partner Lucas, a self-employed businessman, as her landlord and the property owner.
Lucas admitted to officers there was also cash belonging to him in a safe in the loft.
They found £35,000 along with other stashes of cash in the kitchen and a handful of Mexican currency.
In total, officers seized £55,931 and $437.59 in Mexican Pesos.
The couple were arrested at the scene and taken to St Anne Street police station for questioning.
Investigators will try and recoup some of the £108,000 in a Proceeds of Crime application. Pictured: Liverpool Crown Court
Ellis was shown her applications for housing benefit and income support that she had made from both her previous and current address that were all made as a single parent.
The 34-year-old admitted making false claims.
Lucas claimed to live at an address in Abergele, North Wales, but investigators found it to be frequently booked up as a holiday cottage with paying guests.
Ellis eventually pleaded guilty to two counts of making a dishonest representation to obtain benefit and three counts of dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances.
She was jailed for two years and three months.
Lucas pleaded guilty to two counts of encouraging or assisting the commission of an offence.
He was handed 21 months behind bars.
Investigators will try and recoup some of the £108,000 in a Proceeds of Crime application.
Maqsood Khan, from Merseyside Crown Prosecution Service, said: ‘Jonathan Lucas and Melissa Ellis are a pair of serial fraudsters who were falsely claiming a variety of benefits while living a very nice lifestyle indeed.
‘The most that Jonathan Lucas would admit to was that Melissa Ellis was his ‘on-off girlfriend’, yet they were clearly living together as man and wife, bringing up their three children and going on expensive foreign holidays together.
‘Lucas denied living at the house in St Mary’s Road but was shown the tenancy agreements for both that property and the house in [Garston] and confirmed he’d completed them and then given them to Ellis knowing she would be using them for her housing benefit claim.
‘He said he didn’t see what was wrong with him charging Ellis rent for living in the house, even though his children were living there too.
‘Nailing these two cheats has taken a lot of work, but they eventually pleaded guilty and have now been sent to prison.
‘The benefits system is there to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
‘That clearly doesn’t include Jonathan Lucas and Melissa Ellis.’