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7 Aug 2019

Light sentence for £20k benefit fraud

A benefit cheat pocketed thousands in handouts he was not entitled to by secretly working as a scrap man.

Arthur Ferguson claimed he was only earning a small amount, tidying gardens and cleaning bins while claiming benefits.

But he took the money under false pretences for four-and-a-half years, during which time more than £70,000 was paid into his bank by two recycling firms.

Now the 58-year-old, of Cragside, The Lonnen, South Shields, who admitted dishonestly receiving more than £20,000 between 2013 and 2017, has been ordered to do unpaid work as part of a community order.

Jessica Slaughter, prosecuting, told Newcastle Crown Court: "It's a benefit fraud case where he didn't disclose he was working to the full extent he was and he had money in his bank account higher than he was entitled to to get benefits.

"He told South Tyneside Council he was working as a garden tidier and bin cleaner and he claimed council tax benefit and housing benefit on the basis of limited earnings. He also claimed employment support allowance for a short period of time.

"He was supposed to notify any change in circumstances about how much he was working and how much he was receiving.

"He was receiving substantial sums into his bank account, consistent with him working for recycling companies and not declaring his income.

"Further, in 2013, he applied for and received a waste carriers licence for receiving scrap items."

The court heard that between December 2012 and July 2017, two recycling firms paid more than £70,000 to Ferguson.

When interviewed about the offence, he said none of the money received was his and that he would pay money back to them in cash.

The total overpayment in benefits was £20,598 and the claim was fraudulent from the outset, the court heard.

Ferguson has been paying back his ill-gotten gains at £50 a month and has so far handed over £400.

He pleaded guilty to benefit fraud and Recorder Jonathan Aitken sentenced him to a 12 month community order with 200 hours unpaid work.

Jennifer Coxon, defending, said: "He has not lived a lavish lifestyle. He didn't appreciate the seriousness of it but he now fully appreciates it.

"He is desperate financially and could now be entitled to benefits but doesn't wish to claim because he has made such a mistake and has had money he is not entitled to. So he is struggling financially.

"He continues with his waste collection company but it's variable in terms of income.

"He has destroyed his reputation because people are aware of this over-claim. He wants to pay it back."

Of course

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