Air stewardess committed £10k benefit fraud and blew cash on boob job

Virgin Atlantic benefits cheat air stewardess ripped off taxpayer for £10,000 that she blew on a boob job, personal trainer, a new smile and £4,000 Peloton exercise bike while hiding £48,000 ‘given her by ex-lovers’

  • Mercedes Bradley, 31, claimed benefits despite having £48k in a secret account
  • She received money from ‘ex-boyfriends’ whom transferred her over £30,000
  • Bradley admitted hiding the cash in court yesterday after DWP investigation
  • She got £10k in benefits and bought herself cosmetic surgery and Peleton bike 
  • She lost Virgin Atlantic and Easyjet jobs and will do 150 hour community service

A brazen benefits cheat defrauded the taxpayer for £10,000 while lavishing cash on a boob job, other cosmetic surgery and a Peloton exercise bike has been sentenced to 150 hours of unpaid work.

Former Virgin Atlantic air stewardess Mercedes Bradley, 31, claimed Universal Credit benefits even though she had £48,000 in a secret bank account where she received payments from ‘ex-boyfriends’ – one of whom transferred her more than £30,000.

Bradley, of Ironworks close, Cinderford, Gloucestershire, admitted failing to declare capital after DWP investigators caught up with her, bringing her spending spree to an end.

The charge she admitted was of dishonestly failing to notify the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of capital savings or investments which would affect entitlement to Universal Credit between March 26 2020 and August 28 2021.

Bradley used the stolen taxpayer cash to live on while spending tens of thousands of pounds on cosmetic surgery including a breast lift and designer dental work, the DWP said.

After receiving a tip-off, the DWP’s Financial Investigation Unit team questioned Bradley.

But she claimed the payments were from various ex-boyfriends, who transferred her £47,780 in total.

Former Virgin Atlantic air stewardess Mercedes Bradley (pictured), 31, defrauded the taxpayer for £10,000 in benefits even though she had £48,000 in a secret bank account

Bradley (pictured) used the stolen taxpayer cash to live on while spending tens of thousands of pounds on cosmetic surgery including a breast lift and designer dental work

The DWP also discovered Bradley used the money to pay for luxuries such as a personal trainer and a £4,000 Peloton exercise bike, as well as the monthly subscription.

Despite the cash injections, she had been fraudulently claiming a total of £9,147.11 in Universal Credit between March 2020 and August 2021. Bradley had been claiming the benefit legitimately from June 2018 to March 2020.

Universal Credit rules state that any claimant must not have any capital higher than £16,000 to be eligible.

Following the court hearing yesterday, Bradley was sentenced to a 12-month community order with a requirement of 150 hours unpaid work. She will also face a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing in the Spring.

Karl Williams, defending, said: ‘When she separated from her partner she made a legitimate claim for benefits. She moved from Swindon to where her family were living in the Cinderford area.

‘This had a significant effect on her mental health. Fortunately, two of her previous partners were able to help her out financially and gave her in the region of £50,000. This is what affected her benefit entitlement.

‘She has since lost her employment as an air hostess with Easyjet, but more significantly with Virgin Atlantic she is now unable to fly to America as this conviction will prohibit her from doing so.

‘She has effectively lost her career as an air hostess, a career that was rather dear to her. She describes herself as somebody who easily gets bored and working in the airline industry kept her fully occupied.

‘Her mother helped look after her child when she was flying long distance. She has also worked as a dental nurse and as a recruit as a firefighter in Gloucestershire.

‘She pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity. She lives in rented accommodation and is making regular payments back to the Department of Work and Pensions, which currently amounts to just over £400. She is in stricken circumstances.

‘She has been assessed at low risk of re-offending. I believe there are suitable alternatives to a prison sentence within the community.’

The Judge, Recorder Don Tait, told Bradley: ‘It’s a sad day when a woman, who has not been in trouble before, finds herself at Gloucester Crown Court. It’s your own fault of course, but you must understand that benefits are paid out of taxpayers’ money.

You have in the past been in employment and it seems to me that the circumstances in this case merit a community order and unpaid work requirement. I understand that you are relatively fit. That is probably due to purchasing the Peloton bike!’

Bradley was an air stewardess and worked for Virgin Atlantic and Easyjet – but she has since lost her employment. Her conviction will mean she is no longer able to fly to America. Pictured: A photo of an Easyjet plane on the tarmac

Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Tom Pursglove MP, said ‘I’m pleased to see justice being done in this case where DWP investigators have successfully tracked down a prolific fraudster who was clearly taking the taxpayer for a ride.

‘Benefit fraud is a crime that diverts money away from those who really need it, which is why we’re investing £600 million to prevent, detect, and deter fraudsters from abusing the system.

‘This sentencing shows how the DWP is using all the powers at our disposal to catch fraudsters and protect the public purse.’

A DWP spokesperson said the department has ‘always been committed to tackling fraud and takes abuse of taxpayers’ money very seriously’.

They added: ‘Earlier this year the Department launched a robust plan to further drive down fraud and error from the benefits system.

‘The “Fighting Fraud in the Welfare System” plan bolsters the counter-fraud frontline significantly with measures including the hiring of 2,000 trained specialists to review millions of Universal Credit claims, estimated to prevent around £2 billion in fraud over three years.

‘Additional actions include requirements for organisations, such as banks, to share data securely on an increased scale to check levels of savings and whether claimants are living abroad. There are also plans to increase DWP officers’ powers to conduct searches, seize evidence, and make arrests.

‘The new plan will extend the DWP’s powers and improve its ability to access information, significantly strengthening the Department’s ability to drive fraud out of the benefit system and protect the public purse.

‘The DWP is also investing a further £280m, announced at the Autumn Statement, to increase levels of protection against fraud and error over the next two years. This investment will enable us to review the majority of Universal Credit claims, crack down on those who seek to abuse the system and tackle organised criminals who seek to attack it.’

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