Tuesday April 22, 2014

Woman double-dips with welfare and work

28-year-old has learning and mental health problems

A woman who bilked social services of more than $9,000 by working while she was also claiming welfare must pay back the money and serve a two-month conditional sentence.

Jennalee Frost pleaded guilty Tuesday to fraud over $5,000.

The 28-year-old woman has learning and mental health problems.

Crown lawyer Chris Balison said Frost has been collecting benefits on and off since 2004, going off welfare when she moved for a period to Alberta, began working or didn’t comply with her employment plan.

In the fall of 2009, she reapplied for benefits — the same time she was working at an Oak Hills store. Balison said she did not report her working income to the Ministry of Child and Family Development.

Frost collected benefits while working for about 14 months, between September 2009 and November 2010.

In 2012, the ministry conducted what it calls a “data match,” using records from Canada Revenue Agency. That search found Frost had unreported income.

The owner of the store co-operated with investigators, showing her employment records.

“At that time, she made about $7,500 . . . . She didn’t make a declaration of employment or receiving income,” Balison said.

Frost collected about $9,100 in social assistance at the same time.

Defence lawyer Don Campbell said Frost suffers from psychiatric problems related to bipolar disease and also has learning issues. Between the ages of 16 and 22 she started using crystal meth and became addicted.

She cleaned up and successfully completed a year of heavy-duty mechanic training at TRU, something Campbell said she would like to continue.

Frost cares for a two-year-old daughter. Campbell said she is now applying for a disability income, something that will allow her to continue paid schooling.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Sheri Donegan gave Frost a two-month conditional sentence after a joint recommendation by the Crown and defence. She will be on an evening curfew during that time.

Frost is also subject to a restitution order to the province, requiring she repay the $9,100 in benefits.

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