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Transsexual countess’ jailed

PUBLISHED: 17:54 18 March 2010 | UPDATED: 14:57 24 August 2010

A TRANSSEXUAL and self-styled countess has been jailed for four and a half years for conning the council out of hundreds of thousands of pounds in benefits. Marianne Jonson, of Rawlings Crescent, Wembley, was found guilty of 23 counts of fraud at Harro

A TRANSSEXUAL and self-styled countess has been jailed for four and a half years for conning the council out of hundreds of thousands of pounds in benefits.

Marianne Jonson, of Rawlings Crescent, Wembley, was found guilty of 23 counts of fraud at Harrow Crown Court today [March 18] after prosecutors demonstrated that she had falsified medical records and applications for benefits to claim £165,000 in disability benefits and accommodation in social housing reserved for disabled people.

The jury heard how Jonson, who was born Robert Duxbury and known by ten other names including Countess Mariaska Romanov, had told Brent Council she was a wheelchair-bound paraplegic needing round the clock care, pocketing £450 a week from the council for home care.

Officers from social services and housing association would visit Jonson in her home, who fobbed them off from recognising her by staying in bed in a darkened room and claiming that she had a twin sister who could walk.

However a council investigation, which was triggered after an eagle-eyed social services officer spotted Jonson walking her dogs, found that she was fully mobile, while CCTV footage from the café she ran at Roundwood Park in Harlesden also showed the fraudster on her feet serving customers.

The court heard how investigators had traced the fraud back to 1996, when Jonson had claimed income support and housing benefit on the basis of being paraplegic, yet at the same time she was creating a successful business at the café which funded a luxurious life of foreign trips, shopping and frequent beauty salon visits to get her hair and nails done.

Jonson continued to protest her innocence during the trial, claiming that the council had lost her medical records verifying her condition after a police search at her home and provided records to the court, allegedly from an eminent orthopaedic surgeon, which were found to have been based on a Google search and written after his death.

Simon Lane, head of audit and investigation at Brent Council, said: "This sentence sends out a strong message from the court to those who may be considering benefit fraud. Brent Council has carried out one of the most detailed and lengthy investigations in its history in order to bring a prosecution in this case. I am sure that taxpayers will be very satisfied with the outcome."

"This was a complex case, involving many different benefits and lines of enquiry. Jonson attempted to frustrate the investigation at every stage with petitions to the council, complaints to MPs and councillors and claims of lost evidence. The sentence imposed clearly reflects the seriousness of these crimes against the public purse."

The council is also owed back rent from the Roundwood Park café, which they say they are committed to maintaining while officers from the Parks Service and Legal Services negotiate on the exact sum.

Shaun Faulkner, head of Brent Parks Service, said: "The council is determined to keep a café open in the park as an important local amenity. We are taking legal advice relating to the current lease and will update residents as soon as we have more information.

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