ONLINE reality star Chelsey Harwood appeared in the dock today (Friday, April 21) after media bragging about her earnings led to her being uncovered as a benefits cheat.
A judge described Harwood, 29, of Cleveland Street, as living in a fantasy world with an unhealthy celebrity lifestyle.
Harwood, who starred in This is Liverpool, dishonestly obtained just over £25,000 in employment support allowance and housing benefit payments and faced the prospect of imprisonment.
Judge Andrew Menary QC sentenced her to four months imprisonment suspended for two years and placed her under supervision for two years. He also ordered her to carry out 20 days' rehabilitation activities and 100 hours' unpaid work.
The judge, who imposed a two-month curfew between 9 and 6am with an electronic tag, said that Harwood would benefit from help from the probation service and pointed out that she does not yet seem "to have woken up to the level of responsibility you need to show in your life generally".
Transgender Harwood had bragged that she earned £120,000 a year and received lots of valuable gifts but a judge took the view that her income would have been "significantly less than that".
Judge Menary said that the benefit claims were genuine at the outset but became false when she began earning from her self-employed work and moved from Liverpool to St Helens and made a fresh claim for housing benefit.
He said: "You had an online presence for webcam type work which produced for you an income not only direct payments but also gifts and you had some media work writing for an online magazine.
"In those posts you bragged about our level of earnings making what seems to me clearly extravagant claims about the amounts you were able to earn from payments and gifts."
He said that if there was any truth in what she had been saying, she was earning £120,000 a year "with huge and valuable gifts being given to you buy foolish men talking to you online".
Judge Menary said that whatever she had would have been spent "on her ordinary day-to-day living rather an entirely hedonistic lifestyle as you were pretending.
"I recognise your gender issues have complicated your life to this point and created challenges in the past and the unhealthy celebrity type lifestyle you have sought to create or courted online means you have been living in a somewhat fantasy world.
"You have known for some time what you were doing was dishonest, there was nothing healthy about the lifestyle you chose or the other choices you made to project yourself on line."
He added: "You need to understand sooner rather than later that your future happiness and well being lies in your own hands and requires you to adopt a much more responsible and constructive approach to life in future."
Harwood had pleaded guilty to three benefit fraud offences involving a total of £25,156 between April 2013 and January last year.
Ben Jones, prosecuting, told Liverpool Crown Court that the prosecution could not say how much she was earning but she had "a measure of celebrity and was writing articles in Closer magazine".
John Rowan, defending, said that she had received media payments of £14,389 over the period of the offences which was "relatively modest".
The court heard that she had talked about being able to finance the purchase of a Mercedes car and spend a £1,000 a month on beauty treatments.
"She is remorseful and shameful for her actions," said Mr Rowan, who added she has celebrity status in the Liverpool area and will be further shamed by the publicity about the offences.
He continued: "Given the background of her early life and growing up she is quite terrified at the prospect of a custodial sentence."