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8 Jan 2019

Recidivist gets suspended sentence for £60k benefit fraud

A self-employed welder who claimed he needed help to wash, dress, and eat travelled to Tenerife to visit friends while fraudulently claiming more than £60,000 in benefits.

Brett Jones claimed disability and housing benefits after saying he had health conditions including arthritis, bipolar disorder, and diabetes – then went to work in Indonesia.

When he was interviewed the 45-year-old told investigators: “I’ve screwed up.”

Newport Crown Court heard the total overpayment was £62,060.70 over a three-year period.

Suzanne Payne, prosecuting, said the defendant fraudulently claimed about £17,000 in Personal Independence Payment, £32,000 in Employment and Support Allowance, and £13,000 in Housing Benefit.

She said his claims were justified when he initially made them but he subsequently failed to declare an improvement in his physical condition and the fact he was working.

Jones said he had medical conditions including arthritis, bipolar disorder, diabetes, crumbling joints, a torn bicep and nerve damage. He ticked boxes to say he required help to eat, drink, wash, dress, use the toilet and communicate.

Investigators found he had been self-employed and trading under the name Advance Metal Fabrications. The invoices he submitted totalled more than £180,000. They also found he had been working abroad in Jakarta as well as travelling to see friends in Tenerife.

During his interview in August 2017 Jones said: “When I made the claims I was in a bad way.” He added: “I’ve screwed up.”

Prosecutors said he had a previous conviction for theft dating back to 1992 and a caution for handling stolen goods in 2010. His most recent conviction was for drink-driving.

Ms Payne said the prosecution would not be making an application under the Proceeds of Crime Act as he had “no assets”.

Jones, from Cwmbran, admitted three counts of benefit fraud.

Rosamund Rutter, defending, said her client did not have any relevant previous convictions and the claim was not fraudulent from the outset. She said he was currently working and a re-payment plan was put in place last summer. He has already paid back £330.40. (!)

Ms Rutter drew the judge’s attention to references from the defendant’s mother and his GP, who outlined his medical conditions. She asked for any jail term to be suspended rather than immediate.

She added: “He is remorseful and ashamed of what he has done.”

The defence barrister highlighted the fact the case had been “hanging over him” for 16 months due to unexplained delays.

In his sentencing remarks Recorder Timothy Brennan QC said: “You continued through greed to claim money to which you were not entitled. You spent it on other things like trips to see your friends in Tenerife.”

The judge described his criminal record as “dismal”. He told Jones he could have used the 16-month delay to repay the money but noted he had so far only paid back around £300.

Jones was given a 12-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months. He was ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work and pay £400 in costs.

Source

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