Tammy Ann Gunter, pictured at Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court yesterday, has now been jailed
A former student nurse who fraudulently claimed more than £70,000 in tax credits and spent it on plastic surgery and lavish holidays to Las Vegas and Florida has been jailed for two years.
Tammy Ann Gunter, 41, of Blackwood, Caerphilly, who lied that she was separated, made false claims for student finance and an NHS bursary and forged a letter purporting to be from HMRC.
She also took a joint finance loan for a timeshare property in the US with her 45-year-old husband Neil Mark Hart.
Yesterday, she was jailed for two years at after admitting four counts of fraud and one each of being knowingly concerned in fraudulent activity undertaken with a view to obtaining tax credits and forgery.
Hart was jailed for six months after admitting one count of encouraging or assisting the commission of an offence, believing it would be committed.
Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court was told Gunter was a garage and convenience store worker who lived a ‘lavish’ lifestyle and had plastic surgery in Eastern Europe.
The couple, who married in June 2009, were also said to have taken out a joint finance loan for $30,000 (£23,000) for a timeshare property in America.
Gunter, 41, of Blackwood, Caerphilly, who lied that she was separated, made false claims for student finance and an NHS bursary and forged a letter purporting to be from HMRC
The court was also told they had enjoyed holidays to Las Vegas in 2011 and Florida in 2013 and operated an unlicensed dog breeding business.
Nuhu Gobir, prosecuting, said: ‘She’s also known by her married name, Tammy Hart, and she uses her maiden name in her dealings with public bodies.’
He said: ‘The defendants were already in a relationship and had been living together as a family since December 5, 1997.’
Gunter, who lived in a semi-detached house worth £132,000, claimed tax credits between January 2007 and August 2016, and received £76,008.63.
Mr Gobir said: ‘Tammy Gunter made a claim that she was a single person working at least 16 hours per week. She stated that she had two children and no other income. The defendant dishonestly maintained she was single. She enjoyed a lavish lifestyle.’
In September 2011, Gunter applied to Student Finance Wales in relation to a three-year criminology and law degree at what was then the University of Glamorgan.
‘She stated on the application form she was single’, Mr Gobir said. When information about her marital status was requested, Gunter was ‘not forthcoming’ and her claim was rejected.
She received £21,396 as part of her studies for the criminology degree, which the court heard she was entitled to.
The court was also told Gunter had enjoyed holidays to Las Vegas in 2011 and Florida in 2013
On December 16, 2014, Gunter applied for funding from NHS Wales Students Awards Services for the year 2014-15 in relation to a full-time three-year adult nursing degree at the University of South Wales, where she gave her marital status as separated.
Mr Gobir said: ‘She made no reference to her previous funding. This defendant was assessed as an independent student.’
On September 23, 2014, Gunter applied for bursary funding for the nursing degree as an independent student.
Mr Gobir said: ‘She stated that she was separated and was a single parent with two dependent children.’
She received a bursary of £2,193.24, while her course fees for the 2014-15 academic year were paid – at a cost of £7,352 – which she would have been entitled to.
On 1 April, 2014, she submitted documents to Caerphilly council, with a letter purporting to be on HMRC-headed paper which claimed to indicate that she had notified HMRC that she had married and Hart had moved into the same property.
The letter raised suspicion with a member of staff who had concerns about its authenticity due to matters including spelling errors and it being inconsistent with other HMRC letters.
The court heard that if the letter had been accepted as genuine, the defendant would have received £24,593 between 2011 to 2014.
Gunter was a garage and convenience store worker who lived a ‘lavish’ lifestyle and had plastic surgery in Eastern Europe, Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court was told
The court heard Hart had tried to assist his wife by providing a false address to Merthyr Tydfil Council. He contacted the local authority in April 2014 and said he lived in Bedlinog, also claiming he had done so since the previous year.
Mr Gobir said: ‘The prosecution case is that Neil Hart lied about his address to assist Tammy Gunter with the application.’
The court heard Gunter also failed to declare a theft conviction from 2000 when applying to be a carer. She worked in the position for several months in 2013 before leaving.
Mr Gobir added: ‘The total loss to the public purse in effect is £87,450.’
The joint investigation begun in January 2015, led by NHS Counter Fraud Service Wales, and involved the Department for Work and Pensions and HMRC.
Byron Broadstock, defending Gunter, said her marriage had been a tumultuous one which has seen the couple live in separate addresses at some stages.
He said: ‘Many of the purchases that have been described as extravagant, they are out of the ordinary. They were often gestures in reconciliation.’
He added how Gunter had undergone cosmetic surgery after suffering from low self-esteem. ‘It wasn’t simply for purely cosmetic reasons’, he said. ‘It was psychological reasons.’
Gunter, who lived in the semi-detached house (on the left) worth £132,000, ‘engaged in a significant course of dishonest conduct for a considerable period of time’, the judge said
He said ‘much of the purchases’ that were made were done so using money Gunter received after the death of her father in 2015.
One count of fraud was ordered to lie on her file.
Jeffrey Jones, defending Hart, said: ‘He allowed himself to be used in that by making one gesture, in relation to one matter – his own address.’
A hearing is scheduled to take place on February 28 next year regarding a Proceeds of Crime Act application.
Sentencing, Judge Peter Heywood said: ‘That fraud occurred over a significant period of time. There was a degree of sophistication and planning involved.’
The judge added: ‘You (Gunter) have engaged in a significant course of dishonest conduct for a considerable period of time and you (Hart) foolishly, Mr Hart, went along by providing false information, knowing full well what the full situation was.’
Craig Greenstock, lead counter fraud specialist for Velindre NHS Trust and NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership, said: ‘Tammy Ann Gunter has, by her actions and assisted by Neil Mark Hart, been quite deliberate and calculating when trying to obtain as much money as they could from the individual public bodies.
‘It is hoped, therefore, that today’s sentence will show that such a deliberate fraud will not be tolerated and that the NHS, together with other public bodies, will take firm action against the dishonest minority who are, in effect, stealing taxpayers’ money for their own gain.’