A couple claimed more than £125,000 in benefit payments after inventing 16 children, a court heard.
Heavy gambler David Wilshaw, 57, and his alcoholic partner Nancy Stevenson, 58, launched their four- year assault on the system in 2003 before they were finally trapped by their greed. At first, the couple legally applied for tax credits for two of Stevenson's real children.
After realising that no one had asked to see birth certificates or any other identification, they made up the names of 16 more children and pocketed £400 each week which they spent on gambling and alcohol. At one stage, Wilshaw was losing up to £600 a week in betting shops while his partner admitted that she had been drinking at least two bottles of brandy a day.
When unemployed Wilshaw was finally caught, he claimed he had done a 'public service' by exposing the benefits loophole. "I claimed for a couple of twins, then another and another," he told investigators. "It was easy. Nobody ever checked up on us until last week."
The couple, who also received £113 income support every week, claimed legal child tax credits after two of Stevenson's teenage children went to live with them at their home in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset.
After no checks were made on her children the pair set about inventing 16 fictitious offspring.
The names they chose were: Gareth Wilshaw, Simon Wilshaw, Sandra Wilshaw, Brian Wilshaw, Jason Wilshaw, Rebecca Stevenson, Phillip Stevenson, Edith Stevenson, Terry Stevenson, Barbara Stevenson, Amanda Phillips, Jessica Phillips, Miranda Evans, Jemma Williams, Danny Evans and Amber Mitchell.
The couple were arrested three months ago after Inland Revenue investigators visited their home.
Earlier this week, Wilshaw pleaded guilty at North Somerset Magistrates' Court to 20 charges of fraudulent payments of tax credits and 22 counts of fraudulent activity to obtain tax credits between February and December 2006.
The additional charges related to Wilshaw also claiming money for missing Giro cheques with the highest being worth £350. Wilshaw pocketed a total of £75,000 in both frauds.