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10 Aug 2017

Benefit fraud ran for six years

A disabled man who falsely claimed almost £77,000 in benefits took part in a 100-mile charity walk, a court heard. For six years Barry Firmager raked in income support, employment and support allowance, disability living allowance and council tax benefit he was not entitled to.

It was discovered he had failed to inform the Department of Work and Pensions and Medway Council about a change in financial circumstances - having won a £200,000 payout in 2006 for injuries in a road traffic accident. He used the money to buy a property in the UK which he rented out and also bought a house in Florida.

The 47-year-old benefit cheat, formerly of Northcote Road, Rochester, was jailed for 16 months - despite a judge hearing he had a degenerative bone disease and arthritis and looked after his father, who has dementia.

Maidstone Crown Court was also told he had been planning to get married on September 10, with the reception and Caribbean honeymoon booked.

Firmager blamed the pain and distress he was suffering as a result of his accident in 2002 for not revealing his compensation - as well as his now ex-wife who filled in the claim forms for him. While wrongfully claiming £76,743 in benefits he took part in the long cancer charity walk in memory of his late mother. He was also spotted visiting a gym.

Firmager, now living in Williton, near Taunton in Somerset, admitted four offences of failing to notify a change in circumstances.

Judge Heather Baucher told him she could not pass a suspended sentence, despite his wedding plans and the fact that alternative care would have to be found for his father. He should have given the court proceedings priority, she said, over his wedding arrangements.

“You were interviewed in 2014 about these matters and although your committal for sentence by magistrates post-dates the wedding booking, you should have had these matters at the forefront of your mind before you set about making your wedding plans,” she added.

The honeymoon was funded by Firmager’s father, whom he already owed £40,000. He also owed £45,000 on credit cards and £2,000 in relation to child tax credit.

Mary Jacobson, defending, said the Florida property had been repossessed and his UK house was sold four years ago. Firmager did not complete the full 100-mile walk, she said, as it made his medical condition worse. He attended a gym on medical advice to help his recovery from knee replacement surgery. His health had since continued to deteriorate and his fiancee received a carer’s allowance to assist him, Miss Jacobson added.

A confiscation hearing will be held at a later date.

Source with pictures

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