A serial north-east fraudster who lied about her husband dying has been jailed for illegally claiming more than £10,000 in benefits.
Compulsive liar Cheryl Mitchell swindled Aberdeenshire Council and the Department of Work and Pensions out of the cash so she could live a lavish lifestyle.
The 33-year-old fabricated a tragic tale, claiming she was a struggling single mum with two children to support.
But the repeat offender was really living with her husband David – who was supporting her and her family financially.
When officials discovered her lies Mitchell used multiple excuses to try to avoid personally appearing in court.
Over the two-year history of her case she claimed she could not attend for trial because she was working offshore, had been in a car crash or was away on holiday.
No fewer than four solicitors resigned from acting for her.
It was only when a sheriff discovered a car crash she claimed had happened the night before her scheduled court appearance had actually happened three weeks earlier that he granted a warrant for her arrest.
Aberdeen Sheriff Court heard yesterday that Mitchell’s lying was so out of control she once told prison staff that her husband was dying.
And social workers who assessed her said they did not believe she would be a suitable candidate for supervision as they were sure she would offend again.
Yesterday, Sheriff Alison Stirling said Mitchell was so deceitful there was no alternative to imposing a “significant” custodial sentence – despite community-based disposals being available to her.
She said: “You pled guilty to obtaining benefits to which you were not entitled to the sum of £10,500 over the course of two-and-a-half years from two separate paying bodies.
“The level of dishonesty is so extreme social workers are concerned that a community payback order would not reduce the risk of re-offending.
“You have multiple convictions for fraudulent activities and you even lied to prison staff in 2012 by claiming your husband was dying. You then denied that you had said that.
“I am satisfied that a significant custodial sentence is the only one appropriate for these reasons.”
Mitchell was jailed for nine months.
Sheriff Stirling said she was “struggling to believe” anything either Mitchell or those speaking on her behalf said.
She said that in the last week Mitchell had put forward a “number of different positions” about her personal circumstances which made her doubt which of those, if any, were true.
Representing Mitchell yesterday, solicitor Stuart Murray said his client had claimed the money in an attempt to “keep up with the Joneses”.
He said she and her husband had been living beyond their means and had used the money to keep them in the lifestyle they had become accustomed to.
The court heard that questions had previously been raised over Mitchell’s mental health because of the numerous lies she has told, however earlier this month doctors at Royal Cornhill Hospital in Aberdeen ruled she was not suffering from any condition.
In January 2013, Mitchell, a prisoner at HMP Grampian, told the Press and Journal she had lied in court after she admitted driving her car at a schoolboy.
At the time she narrowly avoided jail and was ordered to carry out 160 hours of unpaid work.
Following her sentence Mitchell claimed she was innocent but merely pleaded guilty so she could go home to her family.
Speaking at the time she said: “I stood up in court and lied. I said I was guilty so I could get home. It was like blackmail.
“There are people out there committing crimes all the time and doing things wrong, like serious assaults, and they walk away. It’s not like I committed murder.
“The court system is all wrong. I know in myself that it didn’t happen. The boy wasn’t there.”