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21 Dec 2015

Suspended jail sentence for 7-year benefit fraud

Trickster Thomas Wilkinson claimed to have been unable to walk very far as a result of osteoarthritis. (h/t Dave)

But the 67-year-old was regularly appearing on stage at around £250-a-time as part of the Blues Brothers tribute act Elwood and Jake.

Wilkinson's bout of dishonesty did not end there as he also performed at other venues as a popular Motown and Northern Soul DJ.

He had been collecting the disability living allowance since 1996, and incapacity benefit since 1994.

Department of Work and Pensions investigators tipped off about the scam discovered he had been fit enough to perform in the Blues Brothers tribute act for seven years until the fraud was uncovered last year.

Wilkinson from Bournes Hill, Halesowen confessed he had illegally obtained benefits totalling £21,266.09 between June 2007 and July last year, involving both disability living allowance and incapacity benefit.

He admitted two charges of failing to notify authorities of a change in circumstances. At Wolverhampton Crown court he was given an eight-month sentence suspended for two years.

Mr Paul Mytton, prosecuting, said Wilkinson initially started claiming benefits lawfully due to struggles with osteoarthritis which at one stage left him 'unable to walk very far'.

"All would have been well in terms of his benefits if that had remained the position," Mr Mytton said. "But it became known to the authorities that he was working in the period from June 2007 as a DJ and entertainer. All of [the crowds who watched him] said he didn't seem to have any problems walking. The result of that was over the seven-year period covered by the charges he was overpaid a total of £21,266.09. He admitted to police effectively that he should have notified the authorities, but said he wasn't as mobile as had been claimed."

Mr Gurdeep Garcha, defending, said Wilkinson - who appeared at court with a walking stick - had no previous convictions and being dragged through the courts has given him 'a very salutary lesson'. He also told the court his client is currently taking 14 different types of medication a day and seeing five different consultants for a variety of ailments. Mr Garcha said: "When one actually looks at how much was overpaid per year, it's relatively modest."

Judge Nicholas Webb handed Wilkinson an eight-month sentence suspended for two years. The judge said: "You're a man of good character but you've effectively committed a fraud on the taxpayer over a period of years, which brought you a sum of £21,000 you shouldn't have had.

Source

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