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28 Jun 2017

Repeat offender gets jail for £20k benefit fraud

A benefit cheat who fiddled nearly £20,000 in wrongful payments by pretending that he was virtually unable to walk was caught out when he was spotted working out at two gyms.

He was brazenly exercising on demanding weights and machines – and was walking without difficulty, a court heard.

David Lowe, 44, admitted failing to notify a change in his circumstances affecting his entitlement to disability living allowance between April 3, 2013 and January 5 last year. He did not declare that there had been an improvement in his physical capabilities and was overpaid £19,749.

Laura Marshall, prosecuting, told Grimsby Crown Court that Lowe first claimed disability living allowance in April 2008 and was paid the maximum sum available.

He claimed that he had a severe physical condition, had restricted ability and was virtually unable to walk. He claimed that he needed 24-hour supervision and care because he needed to avoid substantial danger to himself and others.

But in January 2013, his condition improved sufficiently to allow him to join The Pods gym in Ashby Road, Scunthorpe. He completed an application form in May 2013 to become a member and declared that he had no disability. He joined Ironworks Muscle and Fitness Gym on Queensway industrial estate, Scunthorpe, and said that he had no disability.

Staff at the gym said that Lowe did not walk with a limp and “walked fine”. He did not need the help of a walking stick, was not attended upon by anyone and had no difficulty using any machine while working out.

He came to the attention of the authorities in November 2014 when it was reported that he was training in a gym and was “not disabled in any way”. He claimed during interview that he was “not as fit as the witnesses said” and accused three members of staff of being “liars”.

Staff at Ironworks said that Lowe made full use of the equipment and never said that he was in discomfort. His visits lasted for about one-and-a-half hours each time and he was not seen using any form of walking aid. He had no obvious limps, never used any kind of aid and would regularly use free-weights, dumbells and pull-down machines that were demanding and needed strength.

Lowe had convictions for 50 previous offences, including fraud, burglary and theft.

Craig Lowe, mitigating, said the defendant had, and continued to have, physical difficulties. He had suffered from chronic depression, had shown genuine remorse and wanted to apologise. He had said: “I am sorry, extremely sorry” and references described him as polite, reliable, friendly and a good neighbour.

Judge Mark Bury told Lowe:
You were given the maximum amount of disability living allowance because of your severe condition. Your condition improved. You became a member of a gym and then you moved to another gym. You were not seen to exhibit any disability. You had no walking difficulty. You were still claiming the maximum amount of disability living allowance for a condition which you did not have. You denied that you had done anything wrong and accused those who said you appeared to be fit and well of being liars.

There is a strong public interest in sentencing offenders such as you to make it clear that those who take money that they are not entitled to by way of benefit are punished.
Lowe was jailed for four months.

Source

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