A former lawyer has lost her appeal against a conviction for fraudulently claiming £13,000 in benefits whilst working.

Cilinnie Agyepong, 43, who previously worked as a lawyer in Ghana, had been found guilty in February for fraudulently claiming housing benefit and council tax by making a false statement and failing to notify changes in her circumstances.

From June 2012 to May 2013 she fraudulently claimed £12,204 in housing benefit and of £1,347 of council tax benefit while being a self-employed employment relations consultant. The total overpayment for the period was £13,551.

Agyepong, formerly of Crouch Meadow, Hullbridge, was sentenced at Basildon Magistrates Court to a 12-month community order and ordered to undertake 250 hours of unpaid work in the community.

She was also ordered to pay £10,000 in compensation, costs of £3,695 and a victim surcharge of £60.

The outstanding overpayment will also be recovered in full by Rochford Council.

But Agyepong lodged an appeal against the conviction and a hearing was held at Basildon Crown Court on Thursday. The judge decided not to uphold her appeal.

Cheryl Roe, Rochford Council’s portfolio holder for governance, said: “I am pleased with the judge’s decision as this sends out a very strong message that benefit fraud will not be tolerated. The benefits system is there to support people who genuinely need help, not for the small minority who think they can abuse the system.

“I want to reassure the public that where people do decide to commit benefit fraud, Rochford Council will do all it can to bring them to justice.”

If you suspect anyone of committing benefit fraud you can contact the Council's investigation team in the strictest confidence on 01702 318041 or by emailing fraud@rochford.gov.uk.