A SOUTHAMPTON woman who defrauded the government of tens of thousands of pounds – by claiming she was unemployed despite secretly working for a telephone sex line – has agreed a deal to pay the money back.

Samantha Knight had jobs with Excel Telemedia and Datapro Services in order to pay for the upkeep of her 11 dogs.

The 64-year-old, who has previous convictions for dishonesty, also claimed to be living in a rented property in Southampton, but actually lived in a fully mortgaged £120,000 home in Millbridge Gardens, Sholing.

Appearing at Southampton Crown Court in October, Knight was sentenced to six months jail after admitting three fraud charges..

Now she has agreed a deal through the court system to pay back the money. Agreed at Southampton Crown Court, it will mean Knight will pay back £92,998.46, of which £18,384.89 will go to Southampton City Council.

Knight made fake claims to receive income support, housing benefit and council tax benefits, for more than 10 years.

Throughout those times she was contacted by the Department for Work and Pensions, asking if her circumstances had changed. Each time she said they hadn’t.

Prosecutor Richard Griffiths said: “She initially started correctly claiming the benefits in 2003, but then started working on an adult sex line, where presumably she discussed adult matters with people who called in.”

He added: “In an interview with police, she admitted making the claims...’for the upkeep of my animals’. She also said she had too many dogs and that she started working ‘because they cost more money’.”

In mitigation, Charles Durrant said Knight had dogs to help her cope with depression.

“She had become quite isolated in her own home and struggled with these issues,” Mr Durrant said. As she spent more and more time at home she took great solace in spending time with the dogs.”

Mr Durrant added that in order to pay back the money Knight had sold her home and was planning to relocate to Sheffield.