A WOMAN told Warrington Borough Council that her dad had died twice, forged legal letters and impersonated other people to avoid paying tax.

Stephanie Punshon, of Welsby Close in Cinnamon Brow, committed the fraud for more than 10 years.

In 2005, she contacted the council and informed them that her dad, whom she lived with and paid council tax for in Woolston, had died.

The 43-year-old asked the council for time to register his death certificate and address his arrears.

The following month, the council received a letter from solicitors confirming that Mr Punshon had died.

But Harriet Tighe, prosecuting, told Liverpool Crown Court on Tuesday that this was a letter forged by his daughter Stephanie.

As a result of this letter, Mr Punshon's council tax arrears of more than £1300 were written off.

In 2006, the dad and daughter moved to Welsby Close in Cinnamon Brow.

Four years later, with Punshon liable for council tax payments, the council received a letter from a Miss J Purdeu stating the ownership of the property had changed to herself.

No payment of council tax was made but requests for further information went unanswered.

In 2011, the council received a letter from Harry Jackson saying he was now the owner of the property on Welsby Close and no payment was made.

Requests by the council for more information also went unanswered.

Between 2010 and 2012, no council tax was paid on the property.

A year later, a letter was sent from Mr DJ Punshon to the council requesting a payment card for his council tax arrears while he lived at Welsby Close.

He asked for a single persons discount for which he received a 25 per cent reduced rate.

In 2013, the council received another letter from Mr Punshon apologising for being later on his council tax payments which he said was a result of the death of his daughter.

The following year, the defendant confirmed to the council that her dad had died and that she was dealing with his arrears.

She provided a forged letter from bailiffs which detailed that the defendant had told them that her dad had died.

No further council tax was paid.

In May 2017, a visit was undertaken by the council to Welsby Close but the woman who answered the door refused to give any information or her name.

The team went back in June and the woman said she was house sitting for a lady called Edith Gaskell who had owned the property since April.

In July, the council received a letter signed by an Edith Gaskell asking for a payment card to be sent to her so she could pay council tax on her property on Welsby Close

One payment was made but then no more.

Investigators in Warrington Borough Council's fraud team noticed that Mr Punshon was still named as the owner of Welsby Close on the Land Registry.

Following further investigations, they discovered Mr Punshon was still on the electoral roll in 2016 and 2017.

Credit checks also showed he had a live bank account linked to Welsby Close.

They visited the property again in 2018 and the situation was explained to the defendant and her dad.

He was confused and told the officers that his daughter pays all of his council tax for him.

In November, she fully admitted to all counts of fraud and said it was because she was in financial difficulty due to her dad's business going bankrupt.

Mr Punshon was unaware that this had been happening.

Once the fraud started, she told police 'she didn't know how to stop'.

Ms Punshon avoided a total of £10,137.

She also has one previous conviction for three offences relating to fraud which dates back to 2010.

Jemma Gordon, defending, said: "This is someone who would benefit from rehabilitation and intervention which she did not get from her last conviction.

"She did not claim benefits when she could have done and perhaps she would not have been in this position."

Judge Anil Murray, said: "These are unusual offences and I do not know what you were thinking.

"You told the council that your dad had died on two occasions and avoided paying council tax at two addresses.

"You have health problems and have been made homeless and for some reason it has taken a year for this case to reach crown court.

"I do not think you are a risk to the public and you have a realistic prospect of rehabilitation.

"I will reserve you for my bench and I will remember you.

"If we met again I will send you to prison."

Punshon was handed a 16 month sentence suspended for two years, a 30-da rehabilitation activity and ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.