A former employee at HMRC has been handed two years in prison after she fabricated child credit claims to steal almost £240,000
Tracy Ashbridge, from Sunderland, made fraudulent tax claims and changed other claimants’ applications for more than 18 children.
According to investigators, had all of her attempts over four years succeeded, she would have received more than £430,000 in total.
Ashbridge had worked for HMRC since 2012 and was paid £11,000 annually to process child tax credit claims.
From 2015, she amended her own family’s claim to falsely say her children had disabilities to retrieve ‘enhanced’ payments and also made up having two extra children.
Ashbridge changed bank details on three other families’ claims so the money would go to the accounts controlled by her and in total was getting funds for 18 children, some of whom were fictional and for most, she made up disabilities to boost the payments.
In total, she received £238,799.98, the court heard. Had she been successful, this would have doubled to £434,128.26.
Ashbridge was eventually arrested in March 2019, but the case was delayed by her husband, Robert Ashbridge, originally denying his defence, the Covid-19 pandemic and industrial action by lawyers.
Appearing at Newcastle Crown Court, prosecutor Andrew Epsley said the day before making a fraudulent claim in February 2018, she sent her husband a message asking if they should have more children, adding ‘not physically’.
Her husband, Robert Ashbridge, replied by saying ‘do you mean more money?’, proving to the court that the pair were both involved in the affair.
Tom Storey, defending, said Tracy, who was dismissed by HMRC, felt like a ‘weight had been lifted’ when her scam was uncovered and that she suffers from physical and mental health problems.
Nick Lane, representing Robert, said he was ‘deeply ashamed and embarrassed’ and had been a ‘trustworthy’ member of his church and community for decades.
Tracy Ashbridge was handed two years and four months behind bars after she pleaded guilty to six fraud charges. Robert was sentenced to 18 months suspended for two years.