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Transsexual fraudster cashing in from prison

PUBLISHED: 17:22 25 March 2010 | UPDATED: 14:58 24 August 2010

A TRANSSEXUAL and self-styled countess jailed for benefit fraud last week is still earning money behind bars, the Times can reveal. Despite Marianne Jonson, of Rawlings Crescent, Wembley, being sentenced to four-and-half-years for an audacious scam whic

A TRANSSEXUAL and self-styled countess jailed for benefit fraud last week is still earning money behind bars, the Times can reveal.

Despite Marianne Jonson, of Rawlings Crescent, Wembley, being sentenced to four-and-half-years for an audacious scam which saw her pretending to be a paraplegic, the café she runs in Roundwood Park is still open for business.

The building, which is owned by Brent Council, has been the subject of a feud between Jonson and town hall bosses after it came to light that she had not paid any rent since taking it over in 1997.

Jonson, who was born Robert Duxbury and known by ten other names including Countess Mariaska Romanov, claimed the council was reneging on a promise to waive charges as it was a 'community-centred facility' with a not-for-profit status.

But the council argued she had not submitted any audited accounts so was liable for backdated rent of £160,000 and must pay a further £20,000 a year.

Council chiefs now face a fight to resolve the matter through legal channels after Jonson was jailed for benefit fraud.

A spokesman admitted in the meantime the café is still trading, adding: "The council is currently reviewing arrangements for the future management of the café.

"The council takes a robust approach to managing its property portfolio and will ensure that the business is properly managed."

Last week, Harrow Crown Court heard Jonson duped Brent Council into believing she was a wheelchair-bound paraplegic needing round the clock care while pocketing £450 a week in benefits.

But, in reality she had carved out a successful business running the Harlesden eatery, and had even sought publicity from the media and the support of the community after she fell out with the council.

The 49-year-old claimed a total of £197,000 in disability benefits and secured accommodation in social housing reserved for disabled people after forging medical records to back her claims.

Housing and social services officers who visited the fraudster in her home noted she was bed-ridden in a darkened room but this was a ruse to stop her from being recognised.

In a further effort to prevent the truth from being exposed she claimed she had an able-bodied identical twin sister.

A social services officer spotted Jonson walking her dogs, while CCTV footage from her café showed she was fully active.

Despite claiming her business was not-for-profit, it bankrolled 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.

But after cops searched her home they seized records purporting to be 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."

lorraine.king@archant.co.uk

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