ZIMBABWEAN asylum seeker Sandra Murenha claimed benefits even though she was working in a job that she had obtained by lying.
Murenha (36) received £2 000 in Job Seeker’s Allowance while working at IT business company Steria Limited in Hemel Hempstead.
St Albans Crown Court heard last week that Murenha, of Grosvenor Road, St Albans, worked for the company between August 11 2008 and November 26 2010. She had obtained the job without declaring her previous conviction. In that period she had also claimed £2 000 in benefits.
Prosecutor Gavin Pottinger said Murenha had been jailed for eight months in 2005 for dishonesty offences.
She had opened a fake student bank account with a £14 000 overdraft. She had withdrawn £200 from a bank in Luton, but when she tried to do the same in Harpenden the manager was suspicious and she was arrested.
Murenha was convicted of possessing a fake birth certificate, obtaining a job by misrepresentation and obtaining Job Seeker’s Allowance while working.
Defence barrister Jane Oldfield said that as an asylum seeker, Murenha was entitled to live in the country, but could not conduct paid work or receive any benefits.
She had obtained the work with Steria to provide for herself.
Oldfield said Murenha claimed the benefits when she was working on a temporary basis and had not obtained a permanent role.
She now has leave to remain in the UK until 2017. Murenha wants to complete a Master’s degree and had the support of her church, she said.
Judge John Plumstead told her: “What is so depressing is that you are plainly an intelligent and capable woman who appears to be drawn to dishonesty.”
He said the fake benefit claim was aggravated by her use of a fake identity. He sentenced her to a total of eight months’ jail suspended for two years. She must carry out 180 hours’ unpaid work and be supervised by a probation officer.
The prosecution is considering whether to bring forward confiscation proceedings against Murenha. Judge Plumstead said it was his intention for her to pay the £3 000 costs of her trial.
He told her: “You are fortunate to have leave to remain here.”