A Moroccan woman has been ordered to repay nearly €200,000 in pension benefits swindled from the French state after failing to declare her mother’s death back in 1998.
At the Rouen Court of Appeal on Monday, magistrates sentenced the fraudster, who has not been named, to 15 months in prison, suspended for three years, effectively reducing the immediate custodial sentence of 8 months initially imposed by the Évreux Criminal Court in June last year.
The convicted woman, believed to be aged 78, received €840 every month for over 21 years after her mother died, raking in thousands of euros in state benefits illegally after choosing not to report her death to the relevant authorities.
The scam was finally exposed in 2019 when an audit of state pension beneficiaries flagged that the convict’s mother would have been 105 years old. Upon investigation, it transpired the pensioner had died in 1998 at the age of 84 but payments had continued to be paid to her and received by her daughter.
“I recognize the fraud and I undertake to repay,” the Moroccan woman told the court at her first sentencing hearing as cited by the Paris Normandie news outlet. She added that she had “lost her mind” when her mother died, prompting the court to remind her that she had been “losing her mind for 21 years.”
The government lawyer informed the court that the convict had sought to complete real estate purchases in Greece and Morocco following her mother’s death, and had also bought a 4×4 vehicle.
The woman had lived in France for many years before returning to live in Marrakech. She is understood to still reside in France for part of the year where her son lives.
Despite the order to repay, it is expected to take years for the government to recoup the funds, and in all likelihood will not redeem the full amount in the woman’s lifetime.