A woman fraudulently used the names of her former foster children to avoid paying thousands of pounds in council tax.

Ifeoma Dike, of Dacre Gardens, Borehamwood, avoided paying £7,000 in tax to Hertsmere Borough Council between 2008 to 2015.

St Albans Crown Court heard that the 45-year-old had provided false documents which showed that two young people, formerly in her care, were living in her home, and she no longer lived there.

However, it was a lie when she said she was not living there - she was living there and she was liable for the full council tax charge.

During the period in question, she also supplied false tenancy agreements to imply other individuals were the sole tenants of the property. Discounts were applied to the bills for single adult occupancy and student exemptions, even though Dike was a resident and was liable for the charge.

Dike claimed throughout the investigation and subsequent hearing that she lived at family addresses or worked abroad while her property was being rented out. She further stated she knew nothing of the accounts set up in the names of her former foster children.

At court on June 6, Dike was found guilty on six counts of making false representations to the council regarding residency at her address and was sentenced to 14 months in prison - suspended for 18 months.

She was also ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work and to pay £12,000 in court costs. Dike will also need to pay the council tax she owes and Hertsmere says it will take action to recover those sums in full.

Councillor John Graham, responsible for finance and property, said: “Dike lied to get money off her bill, even using the children she was responsible for to support her deceit.

“However, Hertsmere's legal department, working in partnership with the shared anti-fraud service at Hertfordshire County Council, were able to break through the lies, and Dike now faces a stiff sentence.

“The majority of people in Hertsmere pay their council tax correctly, but when people, such as the defendant in this case, claim a discount where there is no entitlement, it adds to everyone else’s bills.

“Anybody fraudulently claiming exemptions or discounts should expect to be found out and should be aware that the matter could lead to a prosecution. Fraud is not fair and will be stamped out in the borough.”