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19 Nov 2014

Slow benefit fraud investigation & light sentence

A shopping centre security guard pocketed £52,000 in benefits claiming he could barely walk while being praised for sprinting after shoplifters and even running karate classes.

Kevin Baker, 45, claimed he could not walk more than a few yards and was crippled with arthritis, even using a taxpayer-funded car, while working a 40-hour week patrolling stores at the Prospect Shopping Centre in Hull.

He was exposed when an investigator spotted him at the shopping centre, his bosses later telling officials they were pleased with Baker's work and that his martial arts background helped him to restrain thieves.

Baker was handed an 18-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work after he admitted three charges of making false claims for incapacity benefit, disability living allowance and income support between 1995 and 2012.

He had begun claiming benefits in 1995 after complaining he was unable to walk more than 50 yards without experiencing severe pain following surgery to have two tumours removed.

'He said he was unable to work without severe discomfort,' Stephen Robinson, prosecuting, told Hull Crown Court. 'He said he could only walk 50 yards before experiencing severe pain. He said he suffered from arthritis. It allowed him the use of a mobility car from 2007 to 2012 which came from money he claimed. He regularly received letters saying he must not work. He claimed income support for himself, his wife and children from September 2008 to September 2012. He said he was unable to work.

'The evidence from managers was he was running around after people who were thieves. He worked five days a week - six to eight hours a day on his feet. He had 15 minute breaks, but would rarely take his full break. He was on his feet for five hours a day. It was a physical job protecting staff and customers and he played a full part in that.'

The court was told that Baker falsely claimed £28,490 in incapacity benefit, £17,068 in disability living allowance and £6,541 in income support.

When he was interviewed in August 2012 he said that when he first made the claim, he was not able to work, but was later able to take on more.

Baker said he did not like taking the money, but felt he had no choice but to work and claim. He said he knew he should not have been working.

When he first started claiming benefits, Baker had run a Karate class at a church hall in Greatfield, Hull.

He told his bosses about his martial arts background, but when questioned by benefits investigators claimed he had lied to his managers.

David Godfrey, mitigating, told the court that Baker had suffered from acromegaly in his late teens which affected his pituitary glands, causing swelling to the bone mass on his hands and joints, and had taken steroids to ease the pain. He said Baker's GP told him that he should not have been working, but he had fallen into debt when he decided to buy his house.

Sentencing, Recorder Phillip Kramer told Baker: 'In your case there was a substantial fraud involving £52,000 and it was over a long period of time. It crosses the custody threshold, but I can suspend it.'

As well as the suspended sentence and work order, Baker will also face a hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act in 2015.

Outside court, a former pupil of Baker’s at his martial arts school said: 'He looked as fit as a fiddle when I trained with him. He took karate classes and used to join in. He should never have had a disability car. They are for disabled people not karate instructors who chase shop lifters. He worked every day in Game Station in the middle of the Prospect Centre. Everybody knows him.'

Source

This case has just come to court - but he was interviewed over two years ago. And we aren't told how much earlier he was spotted by the alert "investigator".

He had been claiming for 17 years. And for stealing £52,000 he gets 200 hours of unpaid work.

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