THE boyfriend of a woman behind a £500,000 benefits scam said they have been treated “dreadfully” by authorities.

Kevin Carlin, 32, is protesting the innocence of his girlfriend, Donna Connolly, who has been jailed for four years for her part in the wide-reaching plot.

He made his protests at their home in Norwich Avenue, Southend, in front of a widescreen television, Sky HD box and two computers. A brand new Renault Clio was parked outside.

He said: “Donna’s been a good mum and we feel we have been treated dreadfully. She never made any bogus claims. It’s all lies. Now the children are without their mum. They are really upset.”

Benefits cheat Connolly, 33, was branded the ringleader of a group of people who defrauded HM Revenue & Customs by making online claims for children who did not exist.

The unemployed mother-of-five showed friends and members of her family how to carry out the ruse, which lasted from May 2003 until June 2005.

She denied eight counts of fraud and three of money laundering, but was found guilty by a jury. She was sentenced at Southend Crown Court on Friday, along with eight other people who were involved.

Mr Carlin said the goods were bought after his girlfriend saved wages from a job as an off-licence manager and the kids’ grandparents bought them the PlayStation games in the house.

He said: “She never made a dodgy claim. She let other people use her bank account and she would pay the people out of a banker’s draft.

“It was a conspiracy by other people involved.”