THREE sisters from Solihull with 16 children between them have been jailed for making false claims for tax credits totalling nearly s150,000.
They claimed that 15 of the children were disabled - which in fact they were not - and received additional payments to which they were not entitled.
Kelly Louise Smith, of Pike Drive, Chelmsley Wood, pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to falsely claiming s60,107 from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and was sentenced to eight months in prison.
Samantha Louise Smith, of Arbury Hall Road, Shirley, admitted a similar charge, involving s50,085, and was jailed for seven months.
And Katrina Smith, of Lyecroft Avenue, Chelmsley Wood, was sentenced to six months for falsely claiming s39,230. She also pleaded guilty.
The convictions follow an investigation by HMRC into a number of mainly unrelated false claims for children who it is believed either do not exist, have previously been taken into care or for whom disabilities have been invented.
A total of eight people were charged across the West Midlands at the end of October in relation to tax credit fraud amounting to s266,500.
Adrian Farley, assistant director of investigation for HMRC, said: "We welcome the outcome of this latest prosecution which is tackling the ruthless theft of money from the public purse needed to fund public services for the benefit of everyone.
"This will send a clear and firm message to those falsely claiming tax credits, or considering such measures. We have robust and effective teams in place to investigate and to ensure this illegal activity is ended. Those involved in this form of crime are exploiting their children, particularly those in care, for purely personal gain."
He added that HMRC recognised it was only a minority that were exploiting the system but would encourage anyone with information about fraud to call the Benefits Anti Fraud Helpline on 0800 854 440 in total confidence.
Confiscation proceedings are underway to reclaim the money from the Smith sisters.