We’ve all heard of stories where one spouse lies to the other. There are all kinds of accounts, ranging from minor dishonesty, like pretending to like the mother-in-law, to much more serious deception, like having a secret bank account or cheating. Or, in this case, pretending to be handicapped. That’s right. This is a true story of a woman, a 65-year-old grandmother, who lied to not only the government but to her own husband.
What did she lie about? Well, she pretended to be blind for – get this – 15 years! Christine Pomfrey managed to pull off this shockingly intricate scam for one and a half decades – all so she could go on holidays and get her nails done. Claiming to be blind was just part of her plan. She also exaggerated an actual illness and used names of unwitting relatives to pocket disability benefits.
This is the story…
The Deceitful Life of Mrs. Pomfrey
Between 2005 and January 2020, Christina Pomfrey, a 65-year-old former shop assistant who had been married three times, claimed that it took her up to ten minutes to walk one yard. She also stated that she was unable to wash or dress and that she needed caretakers to look after her 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Christina claimed that she was blind, exaggerated her illness of multiple sclerosis, and used the names of her unsuspecting relatives (including her own sister) to pocket benefits, including disability living allowance, caretaker allowance, and a string of other state handouts. The British grandmother also made benefit claims on a house she didn’t live in anymore.
Blind People Don’t Drive
What’s more, she claimed disability benefits under the name of her ex-husband’s first wife, who had tragically died in a car accident in 1979. I think it’s safe to say that morals are not something that guides this woman down her life path. One particularly sad part of all of this is how she lied to her husband for such a long period of time.
The moment her third husband, John Pomfrey, understood the extent of his wife’s deceit was when a police officer showed him her driving license. He didn’t understand what the big deal was. “So what?” he said. “Doesn’t everyone have one?” It was the officer’s reply that stunned him: “No, not if they’re blind, they don’t.”
Everything under the Sun
After 15 years of marriage, Christina’s supposed blindness came as an utter shock to her husband. Receiving this news from the police officer was just the beginning of a series of events that essentially turned his life upside down. What would emerge after that day is an extraordinary saga of how, over two decades, the grandmother cheated taxpayers out of more than £1 million.
Christina used two identities, pretending to be both blind and suffering from multiple sclerosis. By doing this, she accessed pretty much every single benefit under the British sun. She claimed everything from income support to housing benefits to disability living allowance. Whatever she was “entitled” to, she applied for.
How Much Did She Make per Month?
There was one point when Christina was raking in a staggering £13,000 a month (which is nearly US$14,900). That’s a lot to make a month just from disability insurance! Earnings like those meant she was making five times more than the average British worker. The worst part about it is that she wasn’t entitled to a penny of it.
At the end of the day, she was taking money that belonged to those who are actually in need – the people who depend on the government to get by. But again, the woman doesn’t seem to put morals at the forefront of her mind. The fact that she was stealing didn’t stop her from enjoying the cash.
Over One Million
The fact that she was getting ill-gotten benefits from the government didn’t mean that she felt guilty about spending the money. It didn’t stop her from enjoying the fruits of her fraudulent labor. Lying to her third husband, John, that she owned a string of newsstands, she blew the money on clothes, cosmetics and nail treatments, and luxury Caribbean vacations.
In total, during the 15-year period in which she made false claims, Christina pocketed a total of £1,010,090 (which is US$1,155,291)! The money was under the labels of incapacity benefits, income support, disability living allowance, employment and support allowance, social fund payments, housing benefits, council tax benefits, direct payments, independent living fund payments, and Universal Credit.
Claiming to Be Helpless
Christina started out by using her second husband’s last name Brown, allowing her to claim benefits from a council house in Runcorn. It looks like getting married multiple times served her master plan. After marrying John and changing her last name to Pomfrey, she got even more handouts for her and John’s bungalow.
Christina also claimed to be single with no other means of financial support. She stated that she needed help to get out of bed, wash, dress, and do all domestic chores like shopping, banking, going out, and basically “every aspect of day-to-day life.” She needed “help to toilet, cook, and prepare food and drinks.” Yup, that pretty much covers everything.
Using Her Family and Friends
Christina shamelessly used details of her family members and friends to claim they were providing her care. All of those whose names she used were, in fact, unaware of her deceit. Later on, police discovered forged letters in their bungalow that were supposedly from these friends and relatives and addressed to the authorities.
Amazingly, and almost unbelievably, throughout these 15 years, her third husband (whom she married in 2005) was completely unaware of the sham his wife was diligently maintaining. “People think I must have known what she was up to and where all the money went, but the answer to both is I don’t have a clue,” said 60-year-old John Pomfrey.
Marrying a “Crafty” Woman
John spoke to The Daily Mail, saying, “She has destroyed my life, and I cannot forgive her. She is the craftiest woman I have ever known.” From the moment the two met at a ‘70s disco at a Butlin’s holiday in Skegness, Christina put on a façade that she was made of money. She told John that she was a millionairess with seven newsstands scattered around Liverpool.
In reality, she had worked at one newsstand, that is, until she was fired for – take a guess – stealing from the cash register. But, despite being canned for theft, she still kept up the hoax until December 2017. It was then only a matter of time until she was exposed for the thief she is.
She Looked the Part
“Once I went over and met her at the shop just as she was locking up,” said John Pomfrey. Of course, Christina wasn’t expecting him and had to be “crafty.” John said that, at that moment, she pulled the shutters down and said, “There, that’s the last one locked up for the night.” John claimed that he never had a reason not to believe his wife.
In his eyes, she looked the part, “always well-dressed with immaculate hair.” Little did he know that her clothes, nails, and immaculate hair were all thanks to the taxpayers’ dollars. Apparently, according to John, she also knew how to carry herself and talk the talk. After all, she had pulled it off for 15 years.
She Promised to Take Care of Him
According to John, “She was bright and bubbly, and everyone liked her because she passed herself off as kind and generous. She never asked me for a penny, right up until the end.” Well, she didn’t need to, considering she was making five figures a month! John added: “I fell for her because I was at a low ebb after my previous wife of 21 years left me for someone else.”
He explained how Christina, whom he calls Tina, told him that she would look after him and that he shouldn’t worry about anything. She even bought him an MG car a couple of months after they met. At the beginning of their relationship, she paid for some of their vacations to places like the Caribbean.
Feeling like a Fool
John said that they went to the Dominican Republic four times, Madeira a few times, and Benidorm. He stated that he also insisted on paying at least half after the first few times they went on holidays. “I now think she picked me because I was another name, in another county, that she could use for her cons. I feel a fool.”
John worked as a water softener engineer, which meant that he traveled across the country. “Sometimes she would call me and tell me not to come back because some important people from the council were visiting,” John recalled. John eventually learned the truth, as devastating as it was, especially after his ex-wife deceived him as well.
From One Lie to Another
It was only later on that John learned Christina was keeping him out of the way because a benefits assessor was visiting the house. According to her falsities, there was no husband in the picture. So obviously, he couldn’t be around when they came by. “She even parked around the corner so they would not see the car,” John said.
John also recalled how every Wednesday, Christina would insist on traveling to a place called Runcorn alone. She told her husband that she was going there to “look after her shops,” but he now believes that it was because someone was visiting her from social services. So she had to be there to keep her story intact.
Angering the Neighbors
But John wasn’t the only one to feel like a fool conned by a master scammer. The DWP, the UK’s Department of Work and Pensions, was also fooled. Even the Pomfreys’ neighbors told The Daily Mail just how astonished they were that she had been able to get away with these scams for so long.
“We knew she was cheating the system, but none of us knew by how much,” one neighbor stated. “A lot of people were angry with her when she got a huge extension on the back of her house because she was supposedly disabled,” the same neighbor described. “The kitchen was extended, and a downstairs bedroom and wet room were added to cater for her ‘needs’.”
Something Was Fishy
It wasn’t after Christina made headlines that her neighbors were in the know. Even before she was exposed, some of them started to smell something fishy. The neighbor who spoke to The Daily Mail explained that when they saw a wheelchair outside the house, they asked Christina, “What’s that for?” to which she replied, “Because I need it.”
Her neighbor then said, “Well, you never use it!” She added: “You could not believe the cheek of her. She was always driving around in big cars and never seemed short of a penny.” Eventually, in 2017, Christina was placed under surveillance. But it’s unclear what tipped off the DWP.
Exposed Under Surveillance
Once Christina Pomphrey was under surveillance, things became clearer. She was filmed carrying out her everyday activities, which were now obviously unconstrained by the illnesses she claimed. They filmed her driving, reading a newspaper, collecting her grandchildren from school, going for walks and shopping trips, and visiting beauty salons.
She was ultimately exposed as a fake. When confronted, Christina claimed to have given the cash to people down on their luck. But further investigations revealed that she went on multiple vacations and regularly ate out at restaurants and stayed in fancy hotels. In fact, she was on holiday in Portugal with John when the police searched her home.
In Handcuffs She Goes
In December 2017, she was duly arrested, and both of her addresses were searched. The authorities found the forged letters from her relatives and friends. Among the uncovered letters was one sent from a hospital to John about a long-standing eye injury. Of course, this was fraudulently crafted, a fake document she fabricated on her computer.
Sadly, John was also arrested based on suspicion of money laundering and fraud. The poor guy, who was out of the loop completely, was taken out in handcuffs. John recalled, “They told me I was looking at ten to 15 years. They also asked me about my wife being blind.”
Blind? What Do You Mean?
That’s when he said, “Blind? She was driving me around the other day.” I can only imagine the shock of everyone involved. Both John and the authorities were likely dumbfounded. Up until this point, we haven’t heard what the fraudster herself has to say. Well, at the time of her arrest, she told investigators, “It’s a relief to be caught. I’ve had enough.”
She also said that no one else was involved. “My husband knew nothing about it. I have had all the money.” At least now, she told the truth. At Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester, Christina Pomfrey showed no emotion, even blowing kisses at the public gallery.
Far from a Victimless Crime
When Judge Sophie McKone was sentencing Christina Pomphrey, she told the convict: “You cynically exaggerated your disabilities and claimed you used a wheelchair and said you were blind – yet you drove a car and lived as an able-bodied person.”
She continued: “You even made claims in the name of your husband’s deceased first wife and made applications in the names of others not caring what the impact would be on them.” The judge explained how it was a planned benefit fraud of a “substantial scale,” with nothing left of what she had stolen. The judge continued to explain this is “far from a victimless crime.”
According to Judge McKone, most people who need money from the government get it, but “the pot of money is not limitless.” In court, the judge told Christina that she had stolen a million pounds from her fellow citizens – money that should have gone to people who deserve it – money that could have gone to schools and hospitals.
“Your behavior is frankly staggeringly dishonest” is what she said to Christina. As it turns out, Christina also had previous convictions for fraud dating back to 1977, in addition to stealing money from her former employer in 2003. She was sentenced to three years and eight months in prison after admitting to 32 charges, including fraud, false accounting, possessing criminal property, and using vehicles for fraud.
“She Is Very Sorry for Her Actions”
She will also have to complete 150 hours of unpaid work. In mitigation, her lawyer Jeremy Rawson said, “She is very sorry for her actions. She finds it difficult to believe what she has done.” But considering her lack of emotion shown in court, it’s debatable just how much she really feels sorry. In the end, no charges were brought against John Pomfrey.
Investigators did find out, though, that over six years, £90,000 (US$103,000) of benefits claimed by his wife were being deposited into a bank account that belonged to her daughter Aimee Brown from her previous marriage. Over the years, her 34-year-old daughter kept almost £71,000 (US$81,200).
Hoodwinked by Her Mother
Aimee was ultimately charged with money laundering and received an 18-month suspended jail sentence. In court, she claimed to be “hoodwinked” by her mother. As for John, he discovered that his wife took out loans under his name and on his house. Unfortunately, due to the strain of the case, he lost his job.
John said he’s now fighting to prevent his home from being repossessed after he was left with major debt – a total of £180,000 (US$205,875). It’s upsetting to hear him say things like, “I cannot believe what an idiot I have been,” when he was simply loving and believing his wife. “Here I am, a man who has never had a credit card in his life, facing destitution.”
Cheating the System
John said that when he thinks about what she has done, it makes him sick. “I have come to realize that she basically had a full-time job conning me and everyone around her. And I fell for it.” When the Minister for Welfare Delivery, Will Quince, was asked to comment, he said: “When we identify suspicious activity, we take swift action to investigate and will relentlessly pursue perpetrators using the full range of our powers, including prosecution, to bring them to justice.”
He added that Pomfrey’s sentence sends a clear message to anyone who attempts to cheat the system. A DWP investigation found that Christina had no assets, meaning that when she is released from prison, she won’t be obliged to pay back a single penny to the taxpayers.
As alarming as this case is, it’s not that far-fetched. Next is another story in which a wife deceived her husband for years. But he only discovered the truth after she passed away…