A dog groomer is demanding an apology and compensation after she was accused of fraud when a council's coronavirus grant mix-up saw £240,000 paid into her bank account by mistake.
Amy Osborne, from Parkhall, Stoke-on-Trent, in Staffordshire, was stunned to see her balance swell overnight by £3,000 and then a staggering £237,000 after she applied for support from the Government during lockdown.
The 22-year-old - who had only just launched Dog Grooming by Amy in Baddeley Green - knew there had been a mistake.
She immediately contacted Stoke-on-Trent City Council but struggled to get hold of anyone.
Dog groomer Amy Osborne, from Parkhall, Stoke-on-Trent, in Staffordshire, was stunned to see her bank balance swell overnight by £3,000 and then a staggering £237,000 after she applied for support from the Government during lockdown
The 22-year-old - who had only just launched Dog Grooming by Amy in Baddeley Green - knew there had been a mistake as she had put in a claim for a £5,000 grant for small businesses
When she did finally get through, she says she was threatened with court action despite having done nothing wrong.
Ms Osborne then also had to pay £35 to send the money back and is yet to receive a refund.
It has since transpired the £240,000 was a grant intended for a school in the city.
The city council has now apologised and carried out a review to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Ms Osborne said: 'When I saw that money, I felt physically sick. I 100 per cent knew it wasn't mine because I had only been a dog groomer for a couple of weeks.
'The day the money went into my bank, I went to them straight away and they said they can't send the money back unless the council request it because it was such a large amount. It's almost a quarter of a million pounds that the council paid me by mistake.'
The saga started when Ms Osborne first investigated the possibility of financial help after Boris Johnson put the country into lockdown back in March.
She said: 'The £5,000 grant for small businesses was announced so I put in a claim.
Ms Osborne had to pay £35 to send the money back and is yet to receive a refund. It has since transpired the £240,000 was a grant intended for a school in the city. Stoke-on-Trent city council (offices, above) has apologised and carried out a review to ensure it doesn't happen again
'It was a few weeks after that I received £3,000 in my account. I thought the money was part of my £5,000 grant so I never questioned it as I was told it would just be sent over.
'Then last month I received £237,000 and then realised there had been errors made. The council didn't even realise they had made the mistake and they didn't contact me.
'I eventually found someone to contact and she told me the £3,000 shouldn't have been mine either and they wanted it all back.
'With all the money, you get sent a receipt before you get the money to say it was yours. I was sent a remittance with details about the £237,000. I thought it was a scam so I just ignored it.
'I was sent a remittance with details about the £237,000. I thought it was a scam so I just ignored it,' said Ms Osborne
'I received the breakdown of who they were paying it to and it's for a school.'
Ms Osborne correctly received her £5,000 grant on June 12 before being wrongly sent the £3,000 on June 17 and the £237,000 on July 22.
She said: 'My mum has a stall in Longton market which is run by the council. I went to the market manager and he gave me a number for someone because he had done a remittance claim too.
'The woman I first spoke with said she had been trying to contact me and I had been ignoring my phone. It turned out that the number she was ringing me on was wrong too.
'I said, "How can you send me that much money and not have the correct email address and phone number?".
'Then she said they will start court proceedings against me. She said, "You need to go to the bank right now and send the money or we are starting court proceedings because this is fraud". They made the mistake but then tried to pin it on me.
'I haven't got the £35 back that it cost me to send the money back. They also said they would refund me the days I missed at work - which is £600 for the two days.'
Ms Osborne - who also successfully received a discretionary £3,000 grant on August 12 - added: 'I would like an apology and compensation for what has happened. I've tried to get that myself and they haven't listened to me.'
Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Councillor Abi Brown said: 'Unfortunately we made two payments in error to Ms Osborne, and for this we fully apologise for any inconvenience caused.
'We are very grateful for her co-operation in helping to resolve this quickly, and the money has now been fully recovered and allocated correctly. We have reviewed the error to ensure it does not happen again.
'We have worked quickly in response to the coronavirus pandemic to allocate discretionary grants to as many eligible small businesses as possible. Our aim has been to help businesses at this most testing of times, and we're pleased to say that we have been able to allocate two grants to Ms Osborne.'