A woman who continued to pick up her mother’s pension payments three years after she died has pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering.
Maria Blacklock of Maida Vale, London pleaded guilty at the Inner London Crown Court on 26th July to fraud by false representation and money laundering offences linked to the £66,000 fraud that was investigated by detectives from the City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED).
In the mid-2000s, Blacklock moved out to Las Vegas with her mother from the UK. Her mother received monthly state pension payments and annual annuity payments administered through insurance company Phoenix Group as part of her private pension.
Blacklock’s mother died in June 2011, but instead of informing the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and Phoenix Group of her death, Blacklock falsified life certificates to make it look as though her mother was still alive and living in Las Vegas. She then went on to use her mother’s bank cards and accounts to withdraw and spend the pension money being paid into her account after her death – a total of £31,320 in state pension payments and £35,111 in pension payments from Phoenix Group.
The fraud came to light when a former friend of Blacklock contacted Phoenix Group and the DWP in September 2014 to tip them off that Blacklock’s mother died in 2011. The case was subsequently referred to IFED and Blacklock was arrested by detectives in November 2015 at her address in London, having returned to the UK in September 2013 after her husband fell ill.
Through their enquiries detectives established that Blacklock was using her mother’s pension payments to fund her lifestyle and gambling in Las Vegas. A friend of Blacklock, who claimed she was owed around $14,000 by her, became suspicious when she discovered Blacklock was in possession of her mother’s bank card after her death and then alerted DWP and Phoenix Group.
Two IFED officers travelled to Las Vegas in March 2016 to gather statements from Blacklock’s former friends and associates. Blacklock had forged a Las Vegas doctor’s signature on a life certificate completed in her mother’s name and submitted it to the DWP. The doctor confirmed to officers that the certificate was a complete fake and that the surgery stamp used was not genuine. Officers also tracked down her mother’s death certificate from the Southern Nevada Health District, confirming that she died on 24 June 2011.
The officers identified that Blacklock had made over 100 cash withdrawals from her mother’s account at ATMs in three different Las Vegas casinos. When they visited the casinos, management confirmed she was a member of all three. Further financial enquiries made back in the UK also found that Blacklock had paid for flights to and from Las Vegas using her mother’s bank card and identified large numbers of cash withdrawals from the same account in and around the Maida Vale area where Blacklock was living after she returned to the UK.