25 Feb 2014

Crooked Liverpool builder jailed for benefit fraud

A benefit fraudster who claimed £85,000 in handouts because he was 'too sick to work' has been filmed riding an elephant while on holiday in India.

Stephen Worton's holiday photos also showed him riding a camel in Turkey, driving an off-road buggy in Egypt and enjoying a break in Amsterdam.

The 55-year-old was living off benefits because he had cancer, but after he was given the all-clear he continued to claim.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that he pocketed income support, housing benefit and council tax over a ten-year period while earning up to £60,000 running his own roofing business. He had more than £98,000 of savings and two businesses, a DWP investigation found.

The benefit cheat - who arrived at court wearing a Liverpool football club shirt - also owned a boat moored on Lake Windermere and had a static caravan.

Kevin Slack, prosecuting, said that Worton also claimed to be a tenant in his home in Whiston, Merseyside, to claim handouts but he was in fact the owner of the property.

That property was later repossessed and Worton moved with his new wife to another home in Toxteth, Liverpool.

He didn’t claim at his new address as his wife was claiming £21,000 a year in benefits by falsely saying she was a single woman with no income.

After an investigation was launched, officials discovered Worton's holiday albums. Although he was supposedly destitute, he was seen in photos enjoy viewing the pyramids and the Sphinx in Egypt and there was a video of him washing an elephant in Goa.

Surveillance also showed Worton, who came to court walking on two sticks, up a ladder supervising roofing work at his business, Aran Roofing. He had told the DWP that he could only walk 25 yards in seven minutes with a walking stick, and was unable to open taps or use a knife to cut food.

Mr Slack said Worton’s lifestyle was 'completely unobtainable to someone genuinely on income support'.

Worton, who has previous convictions for theft, handling stolen goods and obtaining property by deception initially denied the charges but later pleaded guilty to 16 counts related to the frauds.

Theresa Loftus, defending, said he was in poor health and needed vascular surgery.

She said Worton’s denials were because he was ashamed of what he had done and was 'staggered' by the large sums and how serious his situation was.

He was jailed for 18 months for 16 counts of benefit fraud.

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