Former GMTV presenter guilty of £75k fraud - but not jailed

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Former GMTV presenter Louise Port has been found guilty of fraudulently claiming £75,000 in housing benefits. However, after taking all the circumstances surrounding the fraud into consideration, the judge decided against jailing her.

So how did she walk free?



Ill health

Port was a sport, news and showbiz reporter, who had appeared on GMTV as well as BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 5Live.

The Telegraph reported that she was working for GMTV when she was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2006. She was working 10 night shifts in 14 days and was warned that it could trigger an episode, so she told the broadcaster she could only work days. Unfortunately, they didn't accept the change and she was sacked from the job.

She then tried to take the broadcaster to court for disability discrimination, but she lost the case in 2008. During that time it has emerged that she had run up serious credit card debts.

In an effort to stay afloat from September 2006 to August 2011 she was claiming housing benefit. She was living in the West End of London, and over that period claimed an astonishing £76,157.14.

However, the Evening Standard reported that when she applied for the benefits she didn't mention that she had a £87,000 stake in another property in the Docklands. The fraud was uncovered by Westminster Council, who took her to court.

She was sentenced to 18 months in prison and 120 hours of community work. However, her sentence was suspended for two years - so she will serve it in the community with a tag.

According to the Telegraph, the Judge said: "I can tell you now my initial reaction was you would have to go into custody but I have changed my mind. I sentence you to 18 months suspended for two years as an act of mercy. I don't think you would have ever committed offences like these if your life had remained on track."

TV stars and benefit fraud

It seems like a strange thing to happen to a TV presenter, but she is not the first person to have appeared on TV and been found guilty of benefit fraud.

One of the most high-profile was Dan Penteado, who had helped expose fraudsters for the BBC show, Rogue Traders. In 2012, the 42-year-old from Bournemouth was found guilty of £24,000 of benefits fraud. He was jailed for 12 weeks. He had left the programme in 2007 and when he returned in 2008 he was only on a series of short-term contracts for a few days a month, so chose not to interrupt the flow of benefits. He was apparently caught when a council official recognised him.

But the oddest case has to be in April last year when Caroline Banana was sentenced to 215 hours of community work, after fraudulently claiming £6,000 of benefits. The 40-year-old from Bentilee had been on TV in 2011 when she famously won £95,000 on Deal or No Deal. However, she somehow thought she could hide the win from the authorities, so she didn't declare it and carried on claiming. She was eventually exposed by an anonymous tip-off.