A benefits cheat who received more than £26,000 after claiming he could not walk was caught out when he was filmed strolling into a job centre.
Darren Matthews, 44, from Salford, cheated the state out of thousands over a seven-year period, claiming his disabilities were so obstructive that he could not perform simple tasks, including chopping vegetables and putting on his socks. The father of five also said that he had arthritis in his knees, hips, wrist, elbows, back and fingers and that he could not even walk five yards.
While in the job centre, Matthews, who has a masters degree in law, allegedly acted as a legal representative for another claimant, who was being quizzed by an official about another benefit scam.
Cannock Magistrates' Court heard that he had originally received payments for a minor disability but his condition had rapidly improved by 2007.
Matthews, who worked in a hair salon and performed in karaoke competitions while he was claiming, said he sent letters to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in an effort to let them know his condition had improved and that he assumed it had been received.
Roger Bleazard, prosecuting, said: 'Mr Matthews is an intelligent man and would have known his payments should have decreased had he sent such a letter. A tribunal found no sign of disability in 2006 and that remained so throughout the period. Mr Matthews' mobility and care needs improved substantially and he failed to declare a change in situation.'
When officials became suspicious, Matthews' salon was put under surveillance and he was seen cutting hair, walking unaided to deposit money at a bank and 'play fighting' with others at the premises.
Matthews told the court he was embarrassed about his actions but maintained he never intended to cheat the system. He said: 'I made a mistake. I firmly believed I had notified the DWP, I did send letters but I do not know where they went. I should have contacted them to find out if they had been received. I had no intention to defraud anybody or deprive the public purse - I only wanted what I was entitled to. I made a mistake and for that I am embarrassed and can only say sorry.'
Matthews, who was found guilty of failing to notify a change in circumstances following a trial, was jailed for 26 weeks.
Presiding magistrate Colin Evans said: 'You are an intelligent man and clearly knew what you were doing.'
Source with video