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Showing posts with label disability benefit fraud. Show all posts
Showing posts with label disability benefit fraud. Show all posts

1 Nov 2018

"Ghostbuster gran" said she was disabled

Grandma Nicola McVicker, 53, tried to convince social services she suffered from crippling “social phobia” and could not walk more than 50 metres.

But conniving McVicker was employed by Ghostly Goings On, which organises trips to “haunted” properties.

She is said to have worked as a paranormal investigator for three years – a job that required her to spend hours on her feet.

The “party animal” – who has a previous conviction for benefit fraud from 2007 – was clocked dancing at a hen do while claiming a disability living allowance, Gloucester Crown Court heard.

It comes as the bill for benefit fraud soared to £3.8billion in 2017 - with more than £70million a week handed to fraudsters or wrongly paid out, it was revealed in August.

Officers from the Department of Work and Pensions also spotted her jogging across a car park – despite being given a special mobility car funded by taxpayers.

She insisted she had breathing difficulties and needed diazepam to remain calm in social settings.

But her Facebook profile revealed how she had an “active social life”.

McVicker’s lies about her condition meant she was given a higher rate of disability living allowance and pocketed more than £19,000 she was entitled to.

She pleaded guilty to failing to notify the DWP of a change in circumstances between January 3, 2012 and July 5, 2016.

McVicker had initially denied the charge and had been due to stand trial yesterday until she changed her plea at the last minute.

Prosecutor Chris Smyth told the court: “Her capabilities had improved. She had become sufficiently mobile to shop on her own, work, socialise, and on occasion, fairly energetically.

"But she said she had extreme anxiety attacks, and breathing difficulties, and could not walk anywhere without diazepam, and being with someone. She said she could not leave her home alone at anytime due to social phobia.

"She said she could not walk more than 50 metres, and some days not at all, when her pain relief was not satisfactory. She said she was 'completely dependent on others' and in her renewal application she said she could only walk two metres very slowly".

Mitigating, Michael Anning told how McVicker’s health was “worse now than it was in the surveillance”.

Her medical issues were the result of a “vicious attack” in 2005 which saw her “beaten and stabbed”, leading to a psychological and physical deterioration,” Mr Anning said.

McVicker was only working for Ghostly Goings On as a volunteer, the lawyer added.

She admitted dancing at a Christmas party – but insisted she had to be “heavily medicated” and it had “cost her a week in bed”.

Speaking about her previous benefit fraud conviction, Mr Anning added: “She had a child who became pregnant. With the increased financial demands she acknowledges she worked when claiming benefits.”

Sentencing McVicker to eight months in prison, suspended for a year, Judge Michael Callum described the DWP as a “lifeline for many deserving people”.

"When someone like you turns to dishonesty to claim more, or like you drift over by not notifying a change, you not only demean yourself, you also take wrongly from a very limited pot of money.

"That is why in my judgement in relation to this benefit, the court treats it as very serious offence.

"Albeit as a volunteer, you worked. You were socialising.

"I accept you have ailments physical and mental. They may be greater now than they were in 2016. Today you do not portray as the healthy woman in surveillance two years ago.

"It can only be a custodial sentence, but I will suspend it.”

But Judge Cullum warned McVicker: "If you breach it, in reality whether you have disabilities or not you will go to prison.”

Source with pictures

31 Oct 2018

Benefit fraud magistrate said she was disabled

A benefits cheat magistrate who said she could barely walk was spotted strolling around the Trafford Centre - and dancing at her own wedding.

Single mother Sandra Howell, who sentenced people in her role as a JP in Stockport, has now been jailed for lying about her disabilities, which she said were the result of a car accident.

A judge blamed her 'flagrant dishonesty' and dubbed her a 'fraudster'.

The 43-year-old claimed thousands of pounds in higher rate Disability Living Allowance while secretly working as a domestic cleaner for various customers.

Howell was in a wheelchair in the dock during her trial at Liverpool Crown Court. Jurors were shown footage of her walking unaided around the court building.

The court heard evidence from cleaning customers including a head teacher who told how she went to Howell’s wedding and saw her dancing.

The jury took less than two hours to find her guilty of two fraud offences.

Howell had denied the charges, which spanned three-and-a-half-years and involved a total of £26,539.

Judge David Aubrey QC told Howell: "What you said to the [Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)] was a sham and it was deceitful throughout. You sitting in judgement on others was a sham and a pretence - and a pretence with the highest form of hypocrisy.

“Between January 2011 and July 2016 you [were] sitting as a magistrate at Stockport Magistrates’ Court in accordance with your oath that you had taken to do right to all manner of people.

“You were administering the law, presiding over cases and sitting in judgement on those before you, no doubt on occasions having to determine whether the evidence was so serious that only an immediate custodial sentence could be justified for a particular defendant before you and the bench.

“During much of that time while you were supposedly administering the law you were breaking the law, repeatedly committing criminal acts by defrauding the state, the DWP, by making flagrant dishonest representations by gross exaggeration of your health issues in order to secure benefits that you were not entitled to.

“You were stealing from the state."

Within a week of completing a claim form in January 2013 she was sitting as a magistrate and two weeks after completing another similar form in November the next year she was again on the Bench and continued in that role until July 2016.

Judge Aubrey said that despite saying she was virtually unable to walk, surveillance footage in June 2016 showed her at the Trafford Centre and working for her cleaning business.

Addressing Howell, he said: "Throughout this period of time you were a fraudster. What you said to the Department …. was a sham and it was deceitful throughout.

“You sitting in judgement on others was a sham and a pretence - and a pretence with the highest form of hypocrisy.”

The judge told the court Howell's claim forms were 'riddled with falsities and dishonesty'. She  was sentenced to nine months in prison.

Martine Snowdon, prosecuting, told the court how Howell told the benefits agency that 'she was unable to work because of her disability following a road traffic accident in 2007'.

She said Howell claimed that she had falls every day, couldn't got to the toilet on her own and struggled to get up and down the stairs.

In her December 2014 claim form she said she 'was always in pain'. The claim form said 'the pain is similar to a boiling pan of water about to simmer and when it boils then I have to stop. It happens within seconds of walking', the court heard.

She also claimed that it took her between one and two hours to get in and out of bed and she needed help dressing.

She said she was only able to do half the 26 half-day sessions as a JP but evidence showed she had worked both half and full days as a magistrate with corresponding expense claims.

Deborah Whitney, DWP lead investigator, went through the claim forms submitted by the defendant in which she told of pain in her shoulders, back, legs and feet.

Howell said she needed her ex-husband and daughter to help her around the house and she needed encouragement to eat and drink. She claimed it had taken her a month to fill in the form because of her problems including poor concentration.

In her early forms she claimed she could walk no more than ten metres without severe discomfort, though later forms reduced this to five metres. She told how she walked more slowly than a pensioner and was often reduced to tears with pain and struggled going out.

Howell, who sat in court with a large bottle of morphine alongside her during the trial, denied she had exaggerated her health problems.

Defence barrister Ian Metcalfe said that Howell has made some repayments to the DWP.

Speaking after the sentencing, George Ward from the Mersey Cheshire Fraud Unit of the Crown Prosecution Service, said Howell's 'reputation is in tatters' and said 'she has only herself and her greed to blame'.

"Let this be a lesson to anyone, whatever their position in society, who thinks they can cheat the system and go unpunished,” he said.

Source with pictures

30 Oct 2018

Benefit fraudster said he was disabled

A 67-year-old man who was paid benefits of nearly £60,000 after claiming he could hardly walk was photographed jogging up a hill, painting while standing on a rooftop - and sitting astride a Harley Davidson motorbike, a court heard.

Secret surveillance of Anthony Pritchard in February last year 'demonstrated far greater capabilities than he claimed', Gloucester Crown Court was told.

Pritchard, from Thrupp, near Stroud, had claimed Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payments by stating he was 'virtually unable to walk', said prosecutor Alun Williams.

Pritchard admitted four offences of benefit fraud between August 2006 and April 2017. He had received £59,211.25 more than he was entitled to, Mr Williams told Judge Michael Cullum.

The prosecutor said two of Pritchard's offences related to him failed to notify the Department of Work and Pensions that he was receiving rental income from his property. He received income support and pension credit without revealing that income.

But the 'particularly serious' offences he committed related to him failing to notify the DWP that his 'capabilities had improved and his care needs reduced', Mr Williams said.

Pritchard made the claim for DLA on the basis that he was 'virtually unable to walk' but covert surveillance between February 16 and 28, 2017 'demonstrated far greater capabilities than he claimed', said the prosecutor.

Mr Williams said he was seen 'jogging' to his car up and down a slope of 80 metres, 'unaided, without pain or imbalance'.

Pritchard was also observed 'walking at pace, albeit with a slight limp' and 'visiting B&Q and parking 50 metres from the entrance, ignoring the disabled bay'.

“Finally he was also witnessed on June 11, 2017 at the Gloucester Motor Show, walking along unaided with no assistance,” the prosecutor said. “There is a slight limp but no walking aids.”

Those investigations led the department to request a police search warrant of his address.

“No bedding was found downstairs,” Mr Williams said. “And the garden was neat and tidy.”

The barrister said: “There was photographic evidence of a very full lifestyle. Capabilities far greater than he declared.”

He referred to photos of a 'new motorhome' with bikes mounted on a rear rack, sightseeing trips to the Olympic games in 2012, and of Pritchard on the roof of his extension project getting involved in the painting.

“This was confirmed on his Facebook account,” Mr Williams said. “He is stood on a step ladder with paint roller in his hand.”

The court heard there was a picture from 2013 of him 'sat astride a Harley Davidson, and he had been the registered keeper of a Ducati motorcycle since 2009.

There were also other vehicles that Mr Williams referred to - an MG Coupe, a Ford Motorcaravan, a Vauxhall Combi Van and a Jaguar XK8 convertible.

The barrister said that Pritchard became the registered keeper of a Harley Davidson in 2012, and through MOT checks the investigators established it had covered 4,000 miles between that year and 2017.

“There were also five insurance policies recorded on that motorcycle,” Mr Williams said. “That is at odds with what he claimed of his abilities.”

Mr Williams turned to the fourth count on the indictment relating to PIP, and said: “He phoned the department of work and pensions in December 2016. He verbally answered questions and completed a form subsequently. He said he needed help preparing food, washing bathing, dressing and had other incapacities”

Judge Cullum said that could be interpreted as “dishonest from the start as it does not start until 2016. A dishonest action on that date.”

The court heard that in interview following his arrest Pritchard' maintained his stance, until confronted with evidence.'

Mr Williams said “But then he was obfuscating and sarcastic - challenging the prosecution to prove it.”

Mr Williams said that Pritchard had six previous convictions for fifteen offences, but the most recent was 2007 and 'they must be regarded as spent'.

The prosecutor concluded by saying: “If not a lavish lifestyle, it included a great deal of material wealth, the motorhomes, the sports cars and the motorcycles. We ask that the court proceeds under the proceed of crime act.”

Sarah Jenkins, representing Pritchard said: “He has suffered from a number of different health complaints.”

She said he struggled with anxiety and being in crowded spaces. The trips to the Olympic games were with a partner who 'helps him tolerate situations he could not do on his own'.

“There were periods of time when it seemed to be worse and periods when better,” the lawyer said. “If there was a day when he felt well in the morning he would try and do jobs around the house. When it happened it would only be for a short period of time. If he pushed past that, his condition would feel much worse.

“If he was having a good day, anxiety under control, feeling well, he would take advantage of that.

“There was a definite pattern of health being up and down. Since the investigation begun, there has been a continuing decline in is health. He cannot walk unaided at the moment,” the lawyer said.

She also told the judge that Pritchard was under the care of two specialists due to his present health problems.

“I would ask Your Honour to consider that at 67 with a relatively lengthy period since any offences committed he is not a man that needs to receive an immediate custodial sentence,” she argued. “It could be reflected by a period of custody that is suspended.”

Mrs Jenkins said that as a result of the proceeds of crime procedures, his assets would be liquidised and he faced losing his home.

Probably liquidated. Liquidised seems a new but spectacular penalty.

“He is going to be punished for these offences. The DWP are going to recover that money from him. He owns his own home. That is his life's work. The reality is that will be recovered from him. He does not lead a lavish lifestyle.”

Imposing a suspended jail term, Judge Cullum said: “You are now in decreasing health, and have had matters of ill health for some time. But it certainly did not stop you when you were covertly observed, jogging, walking unaided, and going to B&Q, all in 2017.”

The judge noted that now: “You clearly present as someone who would be wholly incapable of that, but your condition now is of less importance.”

He ruled: “Your disability was very significantly different from what you were portraying. That is the seriousness of this case. You were simply not being honest with the authorities, exaggerating and to be honest and lying.”

The judge told Pritchard by doing this he was doing 'a huge number of people a disservice'.

“Firstly those people who are so often criticised for administering these [benefit assessment] procedures and secondly those who a struggling and striving for these benefits. You take money out of the pot for those that are properly deserving.

“I have to consider stark choice of suspending or not. Bearing in mind all I have read about you, I am satisfied that the balance does mean that this can be a sentence that is suspended. It is to be hoped that every penny will be retrieved from you.”

The judge imposed a nine month jail term suspended for 12 months and fixed a proceeds of crime hearing for March 4 next year.

Source

15 Oct 2018

"Disabled" pensioner walked her dog 4 times a day

A 72-year-old benefits cheat who falsely claimed more than £22,400 was caught after being spotted walking her dog up to four times a day.

Patricia Kowalewski claimed disability living allowance between March 24 2010 and September 27 2016, stating she wasn’t able to carry out certain everyday tasks.

But the Department of Work and Pensions received an anonymous tip-off before investigators carried out surveillance.

Fiscal depute Anna Chisholm said: “She claimed that her needs were greater than they actually were. This first came to light when an anonymous allegation came to the DWP as to the accused’s ability to walk the dog… up to four times a day.”

Investigators watched Kowalewski on eight occasions also spotting her walking with no aid, at a “normal pace”, opening and closing garage doors with no difficulty and picking up shopping from her car.

Ms Chisholm said Kowalewski had claimed a total of £44,929.50 over the same period but accepted she “would have been entitled to some of the disability allowance”.

Kowalewski appeared at Aberdeen Sheriff Court for sentencing having previously pled guilty.

Defence agent Gregor Kelly said: “It’s a matter of great shame to her that she finds herself facing a criminal process so late in life.”

He said Kowalewski suffered from back problems and chronic pain and had good days and bad days, adding: “It could be argued it’s a partial fraud.” He said she had been paying money back at £200 per month.

Sheriff Graham Buchanan said: “Plainly this is a serious offence because of the amount of money which you obtained from the state to which you were not entitled.”

He ordered Kowalewski, from Kingswells, to carry out 270 hours of unpaid work.

A DWP spokeswoman said: “Only a small minority of benefit claimants are dishonest, but cases like these show how we are catching the minority who cheat the system and divert taxpayers’ money from those who need it. We are determined to catch those we suspect of fraudulently claiming benefits by following up on tip-offs, undertaking surveillance and working with local councils.”

Source with picture

28 Sep 2018

Benefits investigator helped benefit fraudster husband

The Clacton benefit fraudsters have come up for sentence. They have been given suspended sentences, but she lost her job (as a benefits fraud investigator!) and they got their pictures in the papers, which probably hurt more.

Paul Stevens, 70, wrongly claimed almost £20,000.

He was helped by his wife — herself a benefit fraud investigator.

Stevens told the Department for Work and Pensions that he needed help bathing, dressing, cooking and getting in and out of bed. He said he was in constant pain, needed crutches to get around and could walk only 40 to 60 yards at a time after suffering severe back pain for more than 20 years.

But DWP investigators got footage of him messing around on the zip wire in a play park. He was also filmed pruning a tree with a saw and kneeling as he gardened.

Stevens, whose benefits claim was genuine at the outset, later admitted walking up to 1,000  yards.

He was assisted in his fraud by wife Alexandra, 49 — a DWP investigator.

She said she only filled in the forms as directed by him. But a court heard she helped him “cut corners” and he started to claim Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence to which he was not entitled.

The couple also inherited £240,000.

The couple, of Clacton, Essex, were convicted of fraud.

They have now been given suspended sentences at Chelmsford crown court.

Alexandra lost her DWP job in July.

Source with pictures

1 Aug 2018

Benefit fraud case takes nearly 3 years to reach court

A disgraced politician has been found guilty of claiming thousands in housing and disability benefits he was not entitled to.

Former Fylde councillor Albert Pounder, 74, who represented the Conservative party, had denied claiming £10,422,60 in disability living allowance between August 2014 and May 2016, and £467.23 of housing benefit from Fylde Council - the authority he represented - between April 2016 and May 2016.

But jurors at Preston Crown Court found him guilty of two charges of benefit fraud following his trial.

Pounder represented the village of Staining and was made portfolio holder on Fylde Council for customer and operational services before retiring on health grounds last year.

He dishonestly failed to notify the authorities about his true mobility and care needs.

The court previously heard he has been in receipt of DLA since 1996 and was receiving the high rate mobility component of £57.45 per week and a middle rate care component of £55.10.

In a DLA form in 1995 Mr Pounder said walking short distances made him “breathless”, and he needed to “rest to regain my breath”. He said he could only walk 50 yards before he felt severe discomfort, and that he needed assistance getting out of the bath, and with washing his hair, and sometimes needed help climbing stairs.

Surveillance was also conducted at the Staining Village field day in September 2015 at which he was seen walking 200 yards without help before folding and carrying a table.

Source

Surveillance was conducted nearly three years ago.

10 Jul 2018

Benefit fraudster exaggerated health problems

A benefit cheat who claimed he couldn't go 'walkies' was running a dog training business, a court heard.

Fraudster Paul Johnson, 53, declared to benefit bosses that he 'couldn't walk more than 20 yards' but was working as an HGV driver and operating Mere Brow Gun Dogs.

The businessman, of Preston, Lancashire, had claimed he used a walking stick and that he had to be accompanied when outside in case he fell, and exaggerated his conditions during a home visit by a health worker.

His lies led to him being paid more than £20,000 in benefits that he was not entitled, Preston Crown Court heard.

Johnson claimed he paid £1,000 for someone to help fill out his claim form to the DWP for Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

He claimed the cash over a period of two years and 10 months, including a £5,500 lump sum as a backdated payment.

The court previously heard that Johnson had stated as part of his claim for disability benefits that he needed assistance when going to the toilet, and that he couldn't manage stairs.

Recorder David Temkin said he accepted he was remorseful but added: 'These benefits are designed to help people with long term health issues and disabilities so they can cope. Whilst, undoubtedly, you did suffer a number of ailments, nevertheless you made dishonest representations relating to your lungs, knees and general mobility.

'Even if you didn't complete it the words were yours and the lies were yours.

'If it's true you and another person conspired in this way it has the potential to aggravate your position. The fact you say you paid £1,000 demonstrates you knew you were in for some significant financial reward, though I accept this was not actually proven. Your Facebook profile was monitored and revealed the extent of your lies. Your physical capabilities were far better than you had stated.

'The fact is investigators watched you as you walked unaided distances of 800 yards. One investigator never saw you using a stick or having a carer with you.'

The court heard in one statement Johnson said: 'I struggle to stand for any period of time due to the pain in my left knee. I struggle to get in and out of showers. I fall a lot.'

He was given 10 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, a curfew, and must do 200 hours unpaid work.

Source with picture

15 Apr 2018

Conman jailed for £250,000 benefit fraud

A conman who convinced a doctor he was a quadriplegic by just sitting in a wheelchair, has been sent to prison for over three years for a £250,000 benefit fraud.

Truro Crown Court was told Brian Matthews, from Penzance, spun a web of lies over more than 20 years that involved impersonating a dead man, lying about being a carer for his autistic children and disabled wife, and pretending to be a quadriplegic; all to fund his gambling addiction.

Matthews had an industrial accident in 1996 that left him with minor injuries, and managed to convince authorities that he was a quadriplegic (suffering from paralysis of both arms and both legs) until he was arrested in 2016.

He forged doctor’s notes and persuaded a Truro GP who didn’t feel it necessary to examine him, instead trusting that he was a quadriplegic because he was in a wheelchair.

Brian Matthews told Truro crown court “I am actually saving the government a lot of money” before judge Robert Linford sentenced him to three years, six and a half months in prison for committing nearly £250,000 in benefit fraud

Judge Robert Linford said at the sentencing: “You are, Mr Matthews, a con man.”

Source

19 Feb 2018

Marathon runner's wife who helped him swindle £38k in disability benefit faces jail

The wife of a marathon runner was branded 'devious, manipulative, greedy for other people's money' as she was found guilty of helping in a disability benefit fraud.

April Totterdell was described as 'a liar of epic proportions' and warned she faced immediate jail for conniving with her then husband Graham to fake a disability to get £38,491.60 over 57 months.

The 48-year-old mother-of-two denied fraud but a jury at Canterbury Crown Court took just 50 minutes to convict her rejecting her claim she acted under duress.

Her husband had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing and the pair will be sentenced next week.

Judge James O'Mahony told her: 'This case demonstrates in sharp focus that you are devious, manipulative, greedy for other people's money - even when you had plenty of your own - and a liar of epic proportions.'

He then read from her application form that she had to wash her husband's face, put toothpaste on a brush, help him shower and cut his hair and nails.

He said: 'Pure lies - he was running marathons around the country! You tried to manipulate this court and you failed. You now face immediate custody.'

Earlier prosecutor Ian Foinette revealed Mr Totterdell's claim of incapacity 'was simply not true' even though he had an accident in the past.

He said: 'Undoubtedly, he was injured but what he was claiming for was considerably more than that.'

The prosecutor said Mrs Totterdell knew 'full well' his claims of that level of injury were 'simply not the case.'

'While he was claiming benefit and for a large portion of the time he was actually competing in half marathons and the London Marathon. And at the same time he was suggesting to the DWP, with the assistance of Mrs Totterdell, that he was so incapacitated that he could barely move.'

Mr Foinette said Mr Totterdell was filmed walking across the road and crawling underneath cars while servicing his car.

The benefits were paid into Mrs Totterdell's bank account after she claimed he was '70% disabled in the lower back' with injuries to both shoulders.

April Totterdell told the jury: 'He just wanted a Blue Badge!'

Mr Foinette said he began competing in runs in September 2009 while being described in various documents 'as a frail old man who could hardly get out of an armchair to move from one side of the room to the other without using a zimmer frame and sticks'.

Source with pictures

18 Feb 2018

Fraudster gets four and a half years jail

A conman who netted £284,000 from a huge VAT fraud and fiddling disability benefits has been jailed for four-and-a-half years.

Keiran Alastair Farrer, 38, used the money he obtained during years of deception to fund a lavish lifestyle, splashing out on expensive holidays and flying lessons costing more than £50,000.

He submitted dozens of tax returns for business purchases allegedly worth £2m, Carlisle crown court heard.

Those lucrative - and dishonest - VAT refund claims were discovered by fraud investigators looking into his benefits claim.

Farrer twice submitted false claims for Disability Living Allowance (DLA), dishonestly bringing him £41,000 over six years.

He told officials from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that he suffered from mental health problems and mobility problems so severe he had to use a wheelchair.

But covert surveillance by DWP investigators captured images of the defendant walking comfortably without a wheelchair, often while puffing on a cigarette. His VAT fraud, perpetrated over three years, saw him cream off £243,000 in refunds for business transactions that were entirely imaginary, the court heard.

The defendant, from Whinsmoor Drive, Harraby, Carlisle, admitted a VAT fraud which ran from October 2013 to July of last year; and he also pleaded guilty to twice making dishonest statements to obtain DLA by exaggerating his mobility restrictions and his personal care needs.

These offences were committed between 2010 and 2016.

At Carlisle Crown Court, Judge Peter Hughes QC was told that Farrer had an "appalling" record for crimes of dishonesty. His record consisted of 104 criminal offences, including theft and a previous fraud in 2014.

The judge referred to the previous fraud case, which he dealt with, saying: "I am told that at the time I said you were a thoroughly dishonest man. How right I was."

In August 2013, Farrer was registered as the proprietor of a car and van leasing company.

Its website told potential customers: "We specialise in sourcing the best car contract hire and van leasing special offers for both businesses and individuals from a range of automotive funders and dealers."

Over the period of the VAT fraud, said prosecutor Brendan Burke, Farrer submitted 34 bogus returns in which he claimed to have paid invoices for supplies worth £2m.

The barrister said:"As far as the crown is concerned, this business was more or less fictional in its entirety."

During the period of the fraud, Farrer took flying lessons at Carlisle Airport as he worked at gaining his pilot's licence.

Outside court in December last year, Farrer claimed he had been genuinely unwell following a crush injury at work in 2006.

He said: "I've been working as a driver and paying back money. Nobody told me to do that."

He suggested his original claim was genuine, and that his offending resulted of his illness.

In court today, Farrer wept as he was led from the dock to begin his sentence.

Source

13 Feb 2018

Jail for £48k disability benefit fraud

A benefit cheat who pocketed £48,000 in disability handouts was busted after being caught on hidden camera carrying heavy items.

Michael Holland was also filmed easily getting in and out of a van while working as a labourer for Aspire Housing – despite claiming he could only walk 30 yards.

Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court heard he had ‘grossly exaggerated’ his condition ‘from day one’ to claim disability living allowance over 21 years.

Now the dad-of-three, from Blurton, has been jailed for 10 months.

Prosecutor Nick Tatlow said the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) carried out secret surveillance on the defendant from September 3 to September 22, 2015.

Mr Tatlow said: “He was carrying out ordinary duties. He was seen getting in and out of the van without any difficulty. He was able to walk without difficulty or discomfort. He was seen carrying heavy items. He was seen to carry out all the ordinary duties of a manual labourer. His immediate supervisor described him as being able to walk 90 yards across the yard at normal pace without difficulty.”

The court heard the defendant’s original claim in February 1995 was refused and the decision was upheld after he asked for it to be reviewed. But Holland sought help from the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and it was claimed on his behalf that his situation was so bad he could only manage to walk 50 yards before having to stop a few times a week.

However, it was stated that most of the time he could only manage 30 yards, and it would take him 10 minutes to cover those distances.

Mr Tatlow said: “The true position is very different. He worked for Aspire Housing and the only condition he notified to his employer was that he suffered with sciatica.”

Holland pleaded guilty to cheating the public revenue to the tune of £47,913.

Sarah Magill, mitigating, conceded the offending passed the custody threshold but urged Judge Paul Glenn to suspend any sentence.

She said: “His right leg is deformed and causes him to walk in a disjointed manner. He accepts the claim was dishonest from the outset. It was not a complete fabrication. He has never hidden the fact he has been working.”

Judge Glenn told Holland: “You accept dishonesty in the making of the original claim in that you exaggerated your mobility care needs. This is a serious case because your dishonesty was there from day one. You persisted in dishonestly claiming for 21 years almost £48,000 which could have been spent on genuine and worthy causes. You were receiving about £2,000 a year tax free.”

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5 Feb 2018

Disability benefit fraud

A benefits cheat who swindled more than £12,000 has been caught on camera working as a courier.

Paul Carter, from Orford in Suffolk, fraudulently claimed thousands of pounds in living allowances and tax credits over a four-and-a-half year period to May 2016.

The 56-year-old has been sentenced to a 12-week community order after admitting two counts of benefit fraud at Warrington Magistrates Court.

He was accused by Government officials of 'cheating the system and diverting taxpayers' money from those who really need it'.

Carter's fraud was uncovered by investigators from the DWP, who filmed him carrying large boxes from his van.

The surveillance footage was captured as part of a joint investigation with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs.

Carter will also be subject to a curfew of 4pm to 4am until Wednesday, April 11.

He was ordered to pay an £85 victim surcharge plus Crown Prosecution Service costs of £85.

A DWP spokesman said: 'Only a small minority of benefit claimants are dishonest, but cases like this show how we are rooting out the unscrupulous minority who are cheating the system and diverting taxpayers' money from those who really need it. We are determined to find those we suspect of abusing the welfare system by following up on tip-offs, undertaking surveillance and working with local councils.'

Source with pictures

20 Dec 2017

Scaffolder was "disabled" benefit cheat

Benefit cheat William Marshall pocketed more than £50,000 in handouts - while working as a scaffolder.

The 64-year-old claimed disability living allowance (DLA) and employment support allowance (ESA) on the grounds he had arthritis and was working less than 16 hours-a-week.

But Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) investigators carried out surveillance and caught the defendant on camera as he worked as a scaffolder and lugged heavy poles about.

Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court heard the defendant had claimed DLA from 1996 and ESA from July 2013 to November 2015.

Prosecutor Alexander Pritchard-Jones said: “He was in receipt of ESA on the grounds of arthritis in his knee, back and shoulders. It was paid to him on the basis he was unemployed and not doing paid work of more than 16 hours-a-week. The DWP conducted surveillance and it transpired he was working as a scaffolder for more than 16 hours-a-week and the information provided on the claim form was wrong. The DWP say he was working competently and did not deserve the money he was receiving. The total claimed was in excess of £50,000.”

Marshall pleaded guilty to two charges of failing to notify a change of circumstances in relation to his benefit claims.

Stuart Muldoon, mitigating, conceded the offences were aggravated by the length of time over which the claims were made. He said: “The DLA was given for life - there was no annual re-registration. He accepts by returning to work and not notifying the agency he is guilty of the offences.”

The court heard Marshall - who has no previous convictions - has repaid all of the ESA payments and is paying back the DLA at a rate of £100-a-month.

Judge Paul Glenn sentenced Marshall to nine months in prison, suspended for 18 months, with a rehabilitation activity requirement for 20 days and a six-month electronically-monitored curfew from 9pm to 5am.

He told the defendant: “You claimed benefits to which you were not entitled. You said you were unfit to work due to arthritis but when your circumstances changed you did not notify the DWP. Video surveillance showed you working as a scaffolder, carrying wooden boards and metal poles up and down scaffolding. Benefit fraud is prevalent. It is very easy to commit and very difficult to detect. The cost to the honest taxpayer is significant. You knew what you were doing. The DLA you were receiving was an additional tax-free income of about £3,500-a-year. You have come as close as anyone can come to a custodial sentence without going away.”

Source with video

29 Nov 2017

Former Labour councillor was benefit thief

An ex-Labour council leader who was secretly filmed building a shed on his allotment while claiming he could walk 'zero metres for zero minutes' has been spared prison.

A judge told Robert Woodbridge that his position as an ex-councillor meant he was 'not your average benefit fraudster' and that he had betrayed the people he once represented.

The 59-year-old, of Kent, received disability living allowance after he stated his pain from inflammatory arthritis was so extreme he needed care seven days a week, could not venture out alone, and even struggled to use a TV remote control.

But with the help of surveillance work by the Department of Work and Pensions, a jury took just 20 minutes to see through his lies.

The undercover footage revealed Woodbridge was not only able to stroll around his neighbourhood, but also push a wheelbarrow on his allotment and saw wood for his shed.

He was also filmed comfortably pulling a vehicle trailer around a parked car and onto his driveway, despite telling the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) he would 'stumble and trip six out of seven days'.

The married father of two was seen walking to and from his vehicle on numerous occasions outside his house, always with a walking stick in one hand but carrying shopping bags, fold-up camping chairs, water containers, a cool box and broom.

Woodbridge also enjoyed strolls along roads and up and down flights of steps, with one solo walk lasting 230 metres.

He denied being a benefits cheat, telling a court the DWP officers had filmed him on 'good days' when he 'overdosed' on painkillers.

But Woodbridge, who once headed Swanley Town Council in Kent, was convicted of dishonestly failing to notify the DWP of a change in circumstances between August 12 2015 and January 26 last year.

Imposing a suspended jail term of four months for a year, Judge David Griffith-Jones QC said his dishonesty was 'quite brazen'.

The judge also dismissed Woodbridge's suggestions he had been always been filmed on good days after taking overdoses as not only an extraordinary coincidence but also 'absurd and fanciful'.

'You were a man of some standing in the local community. You had been a councillor for many years and in your position within the community it may be said that you were, or should have been, something of a role model to others,' added Judge Griffith-Jones.

'By your actions you have betrayed those who were entitled to look up to and respect you.'

Maidstone Crown Court in Kent heard he first started claiming DLA in 1997 but it was his renewal form completed in 2013 which led to an investigation two years later.

Woodbridge, a councillor for 16 years, was paid at a higher rate of £140 a week after he stated he was in severe pain every day from the moment he woke, and relied on walking sticks and a variety of support braces for his neck, hands, wrists and knees.

In a detailed claim form he also stated he could not even use a TV remote, struggled to turn on his computer, could not bend or lift and even needed help to attend council meetings.

But prosecutor Edmund Fowler said he failed to 'promptly' notify the DWP there had been an improvement in his condition, as captured by the surveillance investigation filmed over several months in 2015.

Woodbridge falsely obtained a total overpayment of £5,869.

But he told police after his arrest that he had 'good days and bad days', with his severity of pain and ability to move fluctuating.

'The Crown say it was rather convenient that on each day he was filmed he was having a good day,' said Mr Fowler.

'What you can see in the footage is a very different set of circumstances to that set out on his claim form. When there is a change in circumstances there is a duty to inform the DWP. The duty is to give a prompt notification of any change. The Crown say the defendant acted dishonestly in all this.'

Mr Fowler added Woodbridge's original claim for DLA was genuine, as was the renewal application form in 2013.

But he told the court: 'The case is about what happened subsequently because it came to light his mobility and care needs had improved, and he had failed to declare the change in circumstances to the DWP as he was required to do.'

Woodbridge, who lives with his wife in Swanley, was paid a higher rate of DLA on the basis he needed help around the clock and had stated he was 'virtually unable to walk'.

'He said he could walk zero metres for zero minutes before feeling severe pain, the pain started as soon as he got up, walking was slow and poor,' said Mr Fowler.

'He used sticks and had difficulty walking every day. He said he stumbled, tripped and fell often, six out of seven days, and needed someone with him when he was outside. Pain was always there, he said. He suffered from severe pain in his knees and ankles nearly every time he walked and was unable to stand alone.'

Woodbridge also stated he needed help to use the toilet, would fall to the ground with sharp pain, and took 15 minutes to climb his stairs at home.

'I want someone with me when I go out to be sure I'm safe in case I fall over or need help to go the the toilet,' he wrote in his renewal form. Most days are all the same because the pain is always there, and made worse by movement. The pain is extreme.'

Woodbridge, who stood for the Liberal Democrats in local and county elections last year, was covertly filmed outside his home on nine days between August and November 2015.

On one occasion the officers followed him driving his Peugeot alone to his allotment where they captured him loading equipment and his walking stick into a wheelbarrow before pushing it away.

Playing a compilation of the footage to the jury the prosecutor said: 'From what could be observed by the officers it appears he was building a shed - sawing and hammering while at the allotment. You can see he used a foot to steady the plank of wood as he was sawing.'

However Woodbridge maintained in court that his health did not improve in 2015, and he said it had continued to deteriorate since.

He told the jury the aluminium trailer he was seen pulling was in fact lighter than a baby's pushchair, and that he was always assisted at his allotment by friends, comparing it to an 'afternoon tea club' where he did little work.

Asked about one allotment visit he said: 'It was a good day and I had taken Tramadol, paracetamol and whatever I could to get me through the day. It was stupid, it was reckless, it was daft, because I could have ended up killing myself but no one wants to be disabled. You want to live a reasonably normal life but it is very difficult to do that when you are completely wracked with pain. I don't want to be stuck in bed 24/7 or in an armchair doing nothing.'

Woodbridge added he was so grateful for receiving benefits and having his home adapted that he became a councillor in 1999 to 'give something back to the local community'.

1 Nov 2017

Another asset benefit fraud

A benefit cheat who falsely claimed disability living allowance has been ordered to pay back £44,000 or face jail.

Andrew Robert Howarth, from Rawtenstall, pleaded guilty at Burnley Crown Court to benefit fraud and was given a 12-month jail sentence, suspended for two years.

At a proceeds of crime hearing this week, prosecutor Anthony Stephenson told the court that the 50-year-old wrongly claimed £44,893.25.

The court heard how the defendant had £144,710.92 in ‘available assets’ including two houses, a small ISA and a savings account.

Mr Stephenson said Howarth has ‘already started to make some payments back’.

Howarth was ordered to pay the remaining sum of £43,473.95 in the next three months or face nine months in jail in default.

Judge Ian Leeming QC told Howarth: “If you find it impossible to pay then you can come back to court and apply for an extension, but that would depend on its merits.”

Source

Sunday league footballer claimed disability benefits

He goes past one, then another player, then lays the ball off like a pro. (h/t Dave)

Gary Wilson, 30, looks like any other half-decent player as he dribbles with the ball, slide tackles and shoots at goal in a 48-second clip.

But Wilson was claiming a total of £14,000 in benefits and telling the DWP that he couldn't even walk while starring for Sunday League side Steelman's Lounge FC.

Wilson, 30, was caught by hidden cameras while raking in state handouts after claiming that he was crippled, while playing for his Sunday League 11-a-side team.

The footage, filmed by DWP investigators on February 28 last year, shows Wilson playing as a striker wearing the number 9 shirt. He can be seen displaying bursts of pace, going on mazey runs and tackling opposition players - without showing any signs of discomfort.

According to his profile on the Loft FC website Gary "Gaz" Wilson once secured a pro contract with Newcastle United FC until an injury ended his career. The dad-of-three describes his best moment as "Signing 1st Pro Contract @ Newcastle Utd" and his worst as "Getting Injured and having contract at Newcastle terminated". Listed among his previous clubs are the Newcastle School Of Excellence and Newcastle Academy.

Ironically, the Liverpool fan describes his best attribute on the pitch as his pace despite telling the DWP it took him around five minutes to walk 200 yards.

Magistrates heard over a four year period he failed to admit that his capabilities had improved between November 2012 and May last year.

Wilson, of Wolverhampton, admitted to two charges of failure to notify the DWP of a change in circumstance affecting social security benefit.

The defendant, wearing a blue tracksuit, trembled in the dock at Walsall Magistrates Court as sentencing was adjourned due to his ill health.

The matter will now be heard on November 15 at the same court after he was granted unconditional bail.

Adjourning the case, District Judge David Webster told Wilson: "Mr Wilson, it is apparent to anyone who can see you that you are not looking well and I do not want to add to that by having you sit here while sentencing takes place. This will happen on November 15 in the afternoon. I grant you bail to appear before this court on this day at 1.30pm. If you fail to turn up on November 15, that's a separate offence which could result in your imprisonment."

JPs heard how Wilson had also failed to notify the DWP that he had been in reneumerated employment between January 2, 2013 and February 22, 2013.

He also told the DWP he had severe mobility restrictions as well as care requirements due to crippling arthritis in his hip and spine. He said he needed help to put on his shoes and socks and had difficulty getting out of bed and into the bath without assistance. He maintained it took him around five minutes to walk 200 yards, moved three or four times slower than a normal person and also needed crutches to get about.

But the fraudster was caught out playing for Steelman's Lounge FC in Division 6 of the Wolverhampton & District Sunday Football League. He was known as being a "prolific scorer" and scored 26 goals and provided 15 assists in 16 appearances during the 2014/15 season.

According to website stats he was on the pitch for a total of 1,346 minutes and collected two man of the match awards. Stats from the website of another Wolverhampton Sunday League club say he also played for Loft FC.

General Secretary of the league Paul Stone said Wilson would still be allowed to play in the league once he had been sentenced.

He added: "The way we work is that you shouldn't be tried for the same crime twice. Once he's served whatever punishment he receives he will be fine to play as long as he is still not fraudulently claiming benefits."

Nobody from the club was available for comment.

Source with pictures

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

7 Aug 2017

Triathlete just said he was disabled and got money

A benefits cheat who won a triathlon and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro while claiming he could not walk more than 50 metres has been jailed for 20 weeks.

Mark Lloyd, of Ynysybwl, Rhondda Cynon Taff, received £6,551 in Personal Independence Payments, saying a slipped disc in his back left him in agony. At the same time, he took part in the World Powerboat Championships.

Lloyd claimed the cash between October 2014 and February 2016, but magistrates at his trial were shown photos of him competing in the HSBC triathlon in September 2015 - a race he won in the adult taster category. That month, he also took part in a five-day trek to the peak of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, which involved walking between eight and 12 hours a day. He also took part in the World Powerboat Championships in Malta and went skiing in the Alps.

Despite this, the court heard he claimed he needed assistance to use the lavatory, could not stand in the kitchen and took an hour to prepare a meal.

District Judge Martin Brown said Lloyd, a former paratrooper, "exaggerated grossly" his condition, while taking part in "a number of gruelling events". "You were in abuse of your position having served well in the Parachute Regiment," he said. "What you did attracted attention and you got plaudits."

He called Lloyd's claims "fanciful", saying he had "no basis" for claiming benefits.

Lloyd was medically discharged from the Army in 2011 after suffering an injury to his lower back while serving in Afghanistan. In 2014, he applied for the Personal Independence Payment - up to £141 a week for those suffering long-term ill health to help cover the costs of their care. The following year, he applied for more money, saying his condition had worsened and he would be bedridden for a day if he walked more than 164ft.

Defence solicitor James Harris said Lloyd suffers from post traumatic stress disorder as a result of his service, which was undiagnosed at the time of the offences and may have impacted on his behaviour.

The defendant works in online advertising, a form of Bitcoin mining, and said he had the equivalent of US$5,000 he could use to pay a fine. But the judge said he had "blatantly lied throughout" and sentenced him to 20 weeks in prison, of which he will serve half.

The offence put him in breach of a suspended sentence relating to a road rage incident in May 2015, the judge added. He imposed eight weeks of this, which will be served concurrently. Lloyd was also ordered to pay £620 costs and £115 victim surcharge.

Source

31 Jul 2017

Another long term disability benefit fraud

A woman claiming she was suffering from multiple sclerosis exaggerated her condition to obtain more than £62,000 in benefits she was not entitled to.

Jennifer White also said the money was to support her mentally ill son, but a court heard she spent some of it on exotic holidays and lavish living. The 64-year-old retired seamstress was spared a jail sentence after a judge said he was prepared to give her "the benefit of the doubt and take a merciful course". She was sentenced to 23 months imprisonment suspended for two years and will be subject to a tagged curfew from 8pm to 6am for six months.

Maidstone Crown Court heard White claimed £27,961 in disability living allowance, £16,864 in employment support allowance and £17,319 in income support over about 13 years she was not entitled to.

Prosecutor Trevor Wright said despite White claiming she was severely disabled there was no handrail on the open plan staircase at her three-bedroom home in Sheerness, and no disability aids in the bathroom. Her double bed was propped up by two speakers with a plywood base and a mattress 3ft off the floor. “Someone with such disabilities plainly would have found getting in and out of bed difficult,” said Mr Wright.

She had turned down an exchange house as she did not need wheelchair access and wanted a large garden. There were no walking sticks or crutches under the stairs, as White claimed.

"She also claimed there was a wheelchair in the garden, despite making it clear she did not need one," said Mr Wright. “She gave a prepared statement in which she said she suffered from multiple sclerosis. She said she always needed a stick to help with her balance.”

She also made claims in the name of her niece - who lived in Australia.

A probation officer said White accounted for the offences by saying it was to support her schizophrenic son. “She said sometimes she could be fit and be able to do things, and others she couldn’t,” he said. “She accepts what she has done is wrong and amounts to stealing. She is unfit for unpaid work on the basis of what she tells me.”

Judge David Griffith-Jones QC said: “People don’t recover from multiple sclerosis. It is a progressive disease. She was making claims from 1993.”

White, who admitted benefit fraud, was said to be paying back the money from her pension at the rate of £50 a week.

The judge said White, who now lives on the Isle of Wight, was fortunate the charges spanned 2002 to 2015 as he had been told about a period dating back to the early 1990s. She made the claims, he said, on the basis she was severely disabled from multiple sclerosis.

“You were enjoying holidays abroad,” he said. “Photographs seized showed you enjoying life on those holidays with no obvious signs of disability. Certainly, there were no signs of disability anything like the extent upon which you claims were made and paid. On any view, looking at these frauds in the round they represent a concerted and deliberate course of deliberate behaviour on your part. You profited to the tune of £62,126. This was plainly a series of offences of high culpability, given the sophisticated nature and the planning that went into them. You maintained you felt compelled to commit these offences in order to assist you in caring for your son. The fact is some of the monies went to fund holidays which may be described to a degree as exotic and other features of living which may be described to some extent as lavish.”

Judge Griffith-Jones said nothing less would do than a prison sentence and she could not complain if it was immediate.

But he added: “Given your age and circumstances with the assessment of the probation officer, with which I agree, that you pose a low risk of further offending, I am prepared to give you the benefit of the doubt and take a merciful course by suspending the operation of the sentence.”

Source

Yes, another long term disability benefit fraud. Are we talking decades of self-certification?

Easy disability benefit fraud ran for 22 years

A woman who used her disability car to avoid £15,000 of M6 Toll charges has been convicted of benefit fraud.

A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) investigation found that despite claiming £65,000 in disability payments, Linda Hoey had been in paid employment since 1997. Although she claimed she could barely walk, investigators found photographs of her scuba diving and snorkelling.
Hoey was convicted by jurors at Stafford Crown Court.

The DWP said Hoey, 58, from Amington, Tamworth, had been claiming care and mobility needs for degenerative arthritis and a back problem since 1995. However, an investigation revealed she had been in paid employment since 1997.

As well as falsely claiming £65,000 in disability benefits, she also used her Motability vehicle to get toll road exemptions amounting to about £15,000, the DWP said.

In a statement Midland Expressway Ltd, which operates the M6 Toll, said:
This is very much a matter for the DWP although Midland Expressway Limited is very pleased that a conviction has been secured in this clear case of benefit fraud. Midland Expressway Limited finds it completely unacceptable for anyone to take part in any fraudulent activity, whether involving the M6 Toll or not, and we will continue to fully support the DWP in such matters.
Hoey was found guilty of cheating the public revenue and securing the remission of a liability by deception. She will be sentenced in September.

Source with pictures

It was pretty easy. She's been able to claim for a "disability" for over twenty years. Who knew? Apparently nobody.