Pensioner Alan Barlow dishonestly pocketed £93,659.90 in benefits after claiming he was living in Stoke-on-Trent – when he was really in Thailand with his new wife and two children. (h/t Tenancy Fraud)
The 67-year-old kept his Potteries council house as a 'bolt hole' and would return to the UK for NHS medical treatment.
Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court heard Barlow falsely claimed council tax benefit, housing benefit, pension credits and disability living allowance (DLA) for several years – and even continued after being convicted of benefit fraud in 2011.
Now the defendant is starting a 16-month jail term after admitting four further counts of benefit fraud.
Barlow was correctly granted DLA in 2005 after suffering from a number of health problems, including multiple sclerosis and chronic lung disease.
Prosecutor Richard McConaghy said: "The fraud comes from the fact that for the main part, at least from 2010, he was living in Thailand. He met his now wife there in the late 1990s and began to spend more and more time there."
The court heard Stoke-on-Trent City Council stopped his council tax benefit and housing benefit in 2008 because of the time he spent in Thailand. He successfully got the benefits reinstated after saying he had been unaware of a rule that prohibited him from claiming while spending a period of more than 13 weeks out of the country. But he continued to spend most of his time in Thailand.
Mr McConaghy said: "In 2011 he received a conditional discharge from magistrates in relation to benefits, for exactly the same reasons we are concerned about in this case, and for exactly the same reasons his housing benefit and council tax benefit were cancelled in 2008 – that this country was no longer his main residence. It didn't stop him. He married in Thailand in 2014. The relationship he had there involved two children – one of whom was adopted. His council house in this country was used as a base to get medical treatment."
Barlow pleaded guilty to three counts of dishonestly failing to notify a change in his circumstances, and one of cheating the public revenue.
The court heard Barlow has started paying the cash back - at a rate of £30-a-week.
Robert Holt, mitigating, said: "He had a desire to be with his family because he feared being alone. He thinks he has not very long left in his life and he wishes to die in Thailand."
The court heard Barlow is on the waiting list for another council house in the city.
Jailing Barlow, Judge David Fletcher said: "You were fully aware that by maintaining a permanent residence outside the UK that the claims you were making for four different types of financial assistance were fraudulent. Having been convicted, you simply carried on doing what you were doing before. You were perfectly content that the taxpayers in the UK funded your life, and that of your wife and children, in Thailand."