A 28-year old woman from Southend is starting a five year jail term today after being found guilty of fraudulently claiming £28,000 in benefits for a family of pets living within her property.
Becca Flake, of Southchurch Park Avenue, Southchurch, changed her plea to ‘guilty’ during the final stages of the court case once a number of pieces of evidence were presented to the jury.
In January 2013, Ms. Flake attended her local registry office to register the birth of her first born child Sandy, and the court heard how this child was in fact a common domestic goldfish.
She tricked the registering officer by saying that the child was with his father at home, and a receipt from Pets at Home was accepted in place of regular documents that are usually given out when leaving a maternity ward.
In October 2013, Ms. Flake then returned to the same office to report the birth of her second child Munchie – this was a guinea pig that she had stolen from a local primary school.
She insisted that she had accidentally toasted the hospital documents for Munchie in a grilled cheese sandwich, and once again a birth certificate was issued.
Brimming with confidence from getting benefits paid for these two household animals, Ms. Flake then returned regularly to the local registry office to carry out the same scam, and she was only arrested in January 2015 when Social Services were called – a member of staff noticed from her records that she had registered 109 different children within a two year period at the same address.
Speaking outside of Southend Crown Court after the guilty verdict, a spokesperson for Benefit Fraud Action UK made a brief statement to Southend News Network.
We are delighted that Ms. Flake has been prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
We estimate that fraudulent benefit claims for household animals are costing the government more than £13bn per year, and so this prosecution sends out a clear message to anyone who thinks that they will not get caught.
A number of people have signed a petition supporting the actions of Becca Flake, demanding that the government moves to introduce welfare policies for pets before 2020 so that individuals like Ms. Flake are not driven to pretending that they are actual children.