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7 May 2019

£166k lottery winner jailed for benefit fraud

A man who won big on the Postcode Lottery has been sent to prison for benefit fraud after continuing to claim benefits.

Eric Burrows scooped £166,000 on the popular lotto, then posed with other winners for publicity photos at Swansea's Brangwyn Hall.

But he failed to notify the authorities of his good fortune and continued to claim housing benefit and employment support allowance.

A judge said it was clear from a probation report into Burrows that the 62-year-old had been motivated by greed, and had shown "little or no remorse" for his actions.

Swansea Crown Court heard Burrows began claiming benefits in 2004 because he was unable to work and had only limited savings, and for many years the claim was entirely legitimate.

However in 2015 the defendant won £166,666 on the Postcode Lottery.

Craig Jones, prosecuting, said Burrows' "good fortune" meant he now had more than the £16,000 capital limit for benefit claimants, meaning his entitlement ceased. The authorities were not notified, however.

The prosecutor said by the November of 2017 Burrows' savings were down to £7,665 with the lotto money seemingly having gone on items including holidays to Disney World in Florida, a £22,000 car, a motorhome of the same value, and gifts to his parter and sister.

Mr Jones said when Burrows was interviewed under caution by investigators he accepted he had won the lottery, and said he did not declare it because he regarded the cash as "family money" and not his own.

Burrows, from Waunarlwydd , Swansea , had previously pleaded guilty to five counts of fraud totalling some £20,157 when he appeared in the dock for sentencing.

The court heard he has previous convictions for thefts, taking a car without the owner's consent, burglary, and assault with intent to commit robbery, though there is nothing on his record since 1987.

Frank Phillips, for Burrows, said he had no doubt the defendant's behaviour in failing to declare his windfall "will not have impressed the court or anyone else", and he said his client's thinking had been "disturbed".

He said Burrows had been out of trouble for 30 years prior to the commission of these offences, and was now in poor physical health.

Judge Keith Thomas described the offending as a "deliberate and determined fraud" which took funds from an already stretched public purse.

He said it was clear from a probation report into the defendant his motivation had been greed, and he had shown "little or no remorse" for his dishonest behaviour.

The judge said the only question to be decided was whether any term of imprisonment could be suspended or should be served immediately.

The judge said having carefully read the sentencing guidelines and guidance, read the probation report, and listened to submissions there was no "no basis for believing a suspended sentence would have any rehabilitative purpose".

Giving Burrows a one-third discount for this guilty pleas, judge Thomas sentenced him to 24 weeks prison for each of the five offences, all the sentences to run concurrently with each other making an overall sentence of 24 weeks.

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