A lying mum who scooped £95,000 on TV’s Deal or No Deal was today warned she faced jail after admitting being a BENEFITS CHEAT.
Caroline Banana, 40, pleaded guilty at North Staffordshire Magistrates Court to LYING about the windfall she won on Noel Edmonds’ Channel 4 gameshow.
The court heard Banana filled out a benefits form in April 2011, weeks after her appearance was filmed on March 22.
On a section of the form which asks applicants to declare any money they are owed, the ex-GP receptionist said she was not due any cash – despite her massive win just weeks before.
Prosecutor Trevor Vernon told the court Banana had submitted the bogus income support claim in April 2011.
He said: “The trigger to the whole episode was Miss Banana completing an income support application on the 12 April 2011.
“To the question ‘is there money owed to you or your children?’ she ticked ‘no’ on that form.
“This was quite clearly not the case because in March that year she won the £95,000 and was awaiting payment of that money and that payment was due in May.”
As well as income support, the court heard that Zimbabwe-born Banana had submitted bogus claims for housing and council tax benefit.
In total, the court heard she had claimed £6147.92 in handouts to which she was not entitled between April 8, 2011 and March 23, 2012.
She also claimed free school meals – a total of £1,129.90 – between May 2011 and April 2012, but the court heard these are classed separately to other benefits.
Wearing a smart trouser suit and gold earrings, Banana, of Bentilee, Stoke-on-Trent, wept as she entered guilty pleas to six fraud charges.
Mr Vernon added that the Department for Work and Pensions had received an anonymous tip-off about her win after she was spotted on the show.
He said: “The investigation into Miss Banana’s benefits claim began as a result of an anonymous call saying that she had had appeared on ‘Deal or No Deal’, broadcast in November 2011, and that she’d won a prize of £95,000.
“She was interviewed under caution by investigators on the 7 July 2012 and to be fair she co-operated and admitted not declaring her employment and admitted she had won £95,000 on the TV show.
“She agreed that she should not have been entitled to the free school meals for her three children.”
The court heard that Banana, who previously lived in Stockport, Lancs., had been working for three different employers between September 2011 and December 2011.
She was employed by a local GP surgery, hospital and chemist’s in Stoke-on-Trent.
Prosecutor Mr Vernon also revealed that Banana had a previous conviction for shoplifting in 2002.
District judge David Taylor ordered a pre-sentence report on Banana before passing sentence, but warned her that he may impose a custodial sentence.
He said: “All options are appropriate in this particular case.
“Before I decide the right sentence in your case the court needs a report from the probation service.
“It is the prosecution view that these offences are serious enough for immediate custody.
“Only once I have read the report will I have all the facts to decide your case.”
David Green, defending, said Banana had a ‘complicated’ home life.
He said: “There is a significant amount of personal mitigation in this case which will be reflected in the report.”
The prosecution also submitted a compensation claim on behalf of the DWP and Stoke-on-Trent City Council for £7,227.82.
Judge Taylor bailed Banana and ordered her to return to court on Monday for sentencing.
Banana refused to comment outside court.
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