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22 Sep 2014

£19k disability fraud

A benefits cheat avoided jail despite being given £19,000 in disability handouts while working as an instructor sergeant for army cadets. (h/t a reader)

Father-of-five Brian Falcus, 38, of North Shields, Tyne and Wear, was given government help after claiming he had restricted mobility and needed help with personal care. But he was involved in parades two nights per week, educational weekends and annual camps and courses with young recruits at the army cadet corps.

Prosecutor Graeme O’Sullivan told Newcastle Crown Court that Falcus was paid disability living allowance from 2004 and employment support allowance from 2009. He added: ‘Evidence came to light that in August 2010 Mr Falcus had joined the army cadet corps as an instructor sergeant. He had been passed fit to do so on August 8, 2010.’

Mr O’Sullivan said the basis for Falcus’s award for benefits was ‘restricted mobility and help with personal care’. He added: ‘The prosecution case is, from 2010, his physical capability must have improved for him to be sufficiently fit.’

Mr O’Sullivan said the benefits would normally be given to wheelchair users, people with disabilities making it difficult for them to get around and those with illnesses that restrict their mobility. Falcus pleaded guilty to two charges of dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances.

Mr O’Sullivan added: ‘He accepts during the period he ought to have notified the department of an improvement in his circumstances.’

The court heard the army fitness test which allowed Falcus to be sergeant, a voluntary post with just expenses paid, would not have been as rigorous as those taken by soldiers who would be deployed on the front line. Mr O’Sullivan said: ‘His work involved parading two nights per week, educational weekends, annual camp and various courses.’

Judge John Milford sentenced Falcus to 14 weeks in jail, suspended for two years, with a three-month curfew from 8pm to 7am. The judge told him: ‘You have pleaded guilty to benefit fraud which has cost the British taxpayer £19,000. You were receiving two allowances, the most significant of which was disability living allowance and the other employment support allowance on the basis you were suffering from a significant disability, namely restricted mobility. The fact of the matter is, for three years over the period of this fraudulent claim, you were fit enough to be a sergeant instructor in the cadets and had you informed the department, as you should have done of that, no doubt the allowances would not have been paid.’

Nicholas Lane, defending, said Falcus is the father of five children, two of whom have extra needs. Mr Lane said Falcus got involved with the cadets when his doctor advised him to be more active. He added: ‘We are not talking about a man assessed as fit to take up a role on the front line. This is a gentleman who, on the army cadet force health guidelines, is assessed as being able to take part in supervision and other activities for boys and girls.’

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1 comment:

Insider said...

Falcus was an adult instructor with Northumbria Army Cadet Force. He received Army pay and allowances for that role, in contravention of his benefit rules. It is for these contraventions that the DWP successfully prosecuted him.

The part-time Commandant of Northumbria ACF was ultimately responsible for authorising these Army payments to Falcus.

In an amusing coincidence the Commandant of Northumbria Army Cadet Force is also employed as a full-time DWP civil servant!