A BENEFIT cheat who helped herself to over £23,000 in state handouts has been ordered to pay it all back or face jail.
Julie Everest, 47 of Cavendish Road, North Shore, pleaded guilty to falsely claiming more than £20,000 in benefits in June 2010.
She received a six month suspended sentence and a confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act which was imposed at Preston Crown Court this month.
Everest, who was living in Longfield Place, Poulton at the time of the fraud must pay £23,558 within six months or face nine months in prison.
She must also pay a total of £7,594 in prosecution and investigation costs.
Councillor Alan Vincent, Cabinet member with responsibility for benefit fraud, said: “This is the first time the council has sought a confiscation order but we did so in this case because the proceeds from her crime were so high.
“Although most of the £23,000 will be kept by the courts, the council will receive around £7,000 to plough back into public services. But more importantly this sends out a clear message that there are very severe penalties waiting for anyone who abuses the benefits system.”