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

8 May 2019

Benefit cheat's curfew hours altered for Ramadan

A benefit cheat has been allowed to change her curfew hours so that she can pray during Ramadan.

Sami Farooq appeared in court last month after claiming more than £10,000 she was not entitled to.

The 50-year-old's claim for Disability Living Allowance was legitimate from the outset. But when her poor health improved and she gained a job with a firm of woollen spinners she failed to tell anyone.

Farooq, from Crosland Moor, pleaded guilty to failing to notify the Department for Work and Pensions a change of circumstances affecting her entitlement to a benefit.

Kirklees magistrates described the offence, committed between January and October in 2014, as 'serious." They sentenced her to an 18 week curfew running between the hours of 7pm and 7am as punishment.

But Farooq appeared back before magistrates and asked them to change her curfew hours for the month of Ramadan.

Through an interpreter she explained: "It's my honourable request to change the hours. It's only for one month but during this month there is extra prayer and I have to go to classes."

Magistrates were told that she wished to go to mosque to read her prayers and these finish later during the holy month. Farooq said she would expect to be home by 11pm most nights.

Magistrates agreed to vary her curfew so that it runs from 11pm until 9am from May 5 until June 6.

From June 7 until July 20 she must be inside for the original curfew hours of 7pm to 7am.

Magistrates added an extra two days to her curfew to reflect the shorter hours she will be inside during Ramadan.

Farooq asked if she could get in later on other days outside the religious festival but they refused.

Source with picture

26 Apr 2019

Light sentence for disability benefit fraud

A fraudster from Bridgnorth who pocketed more than £16,000 saying he could barely walk has been caught out by investigators who were tipped off that his benefits claim was just not cricket. (h/t Dave)

Department of Work and Pensions investigators secretly filmed cricketer Kenneth Hodgson for two-and-a-half hours while he fielded in various positions and for long periods on August 17, 2017.

He was pictured arriving at the ground carrying a fully-laden cricket bag before practising throwing and catching during the warm-up.

Then the 45-year-old was seen diving to stop the ball, chasing after it and throwing it the wicket keeper while spending 40 overs in the field, during which he enthusiastically encouraged team mates before being replaced by the 12th man.

Scorecards and records suggested he had been playing for Highley Cricket Club since 2013, though he insisted he did not actually play for a team until the following year, maintaining his name had been used by unsigned players.

He eventually confessed to investigators that since starting to play he had batted and bowled when required as well as fielding.

Hodgson had been receiving Disability Living Allowance, later called Personal Independence Payment, since 2008 but claimed in a self assessment renewal form which he signed on August 10, 2010: "I have to walk everywhere with my elbow crutches."

The statement continued: "On good days crutches are sufficient but on bad days I need more support hence I do not go outdoors, so stay in."

He said he had four crumbling spinal discs and nerve damage to his legs which meant he was unable to walk more than four metres very slowly without experiencing "severe discomfort".

The statement maintained his legs would just "give way," leading to him falling every week and needing someone to help him back on his feet "stage by stage".

Hodgson also detailed his difficulties getting in and out of the bath and explained the problems he encountered while trying to stand to make meals.

He told the Examining Medical Practitioner in January 2011 that he only went out "once a week to watch his son play rugby".

The form warned he must report any improvement in his condition, but he said nothing to the DWP until a tip-off triggered an investigation which uncovered the truth about the double dealing sportsman who, it was alleged, was overpaid up to £16,449 in benefits he had not been entitled to between May 3, 2014 and April 24, 2018.

Hodgson admitted failing to notify change of circumstances affecting entitlement to social security benefit at Telford Magistrates Court yesterday.

Shakel Ahmed, defending, said Hodgson has been paying the money back directly to the DWP for the last 12 months.

Mr Ahmed said: “He was unable to manage his condition, but it improved with medication.”

Magistrates gave him a 12-month community order, 60 hours unpaid work and ordered him to pay court and prosecution costs and a victim surcharge totalling £405.

A DWP spokesman said: “Only a small minority of benefit claimants are dishonest, but cases like this show how we are catching those who cheat the system and divert taxpayers' money from the people 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 pictures

8 Apr 2019

Light sentence for deliberate benefit fraud

A mum who claimed she needed a wheelchair claimed £20,000 in disability benefits was pictured doing the splits - while training for kickboxing tournaments.

Tammy Horton,31, claimed her chronic pelvic disease and fibromyalgia meant she could barely walk with sticks.

She said she was stuck in her pyjamas all day because it was too painful to get dressed and could not even collect her own prescriptions.

But the mum posted pictures of her in a gym while she trained daily with two local kickboxing clubs.

She regularly appeared in her local paper after winning medals in bouts - and even posted pictures of her out clubbing with pals on a hen-do.

DWP officers were tipped off and began investigating the fighter, who was claiming disability living allowance and Personal Independent Payment (PIP).

During a two-year period they found she competed in the 2016 CIMAC British Open, at Windsor, and Northamptonshire Open tournament.

She won a silver medal at a tournament in Solihull in January 2017 competing for the Boston Evolution Martial Arts Club.

The following month she was a runner-up in her category at an international event held at Watford. She also competed for a Spilsby club.

Lisa Hardy, prosecuting, told Lincoln crown court “She claimed disability living allowance and subsequently PIPs over a three year period. She said she had serious and chronic conditions. She said she was limited to walking with crutches or using a wheelchair and that she was on morphine to control the pain.”

Miss Hardy said that back in October 2014 the DWP received a complaint that Horton’s benefit claim was fictitious but at the time she told investigators that the complaint was malicious.

She said: “In February 2015 she made a claim for PIP. A health assessor came out to see her and she confirmed the extent of her illness. She completed a lengthy application process and in interview she had such severe pelvic inflammatory disease that it affected her mobility.

“She said she was in constant pain every day. She said she did her food shopping online or sometimes would do click and collect."

She said her husband would collect her prescription. She told how she would live in her pyjamas for the majority of the day because it was too painful to get dressed, Lincoln crown court heard.

“She said she didn’t like going out because she was too anxious. She said she would struggle to walk more than 20 metres. She was asked to perform a number of physical tasks which she said she could not complete. As a result she was awarded PIP.

“An investigation subsequently showed that Miss Horton as far back as January 2014 had in fact joined a kickboxing club and was a regular member. She received grading certificates and competed in competitions. This was a lady who expressed that she needed an extra banister fitted just to be able to get up and down stairs.

“She was placed under surveillance. That showed her driving to drop off her children at school and shopping. She was seen walking independently without support.

“She was brought in for interview but denied claiming any benefits dishonestly. She said her pain varied but was always there. She said she had attended kickboxing clubs in Spilsby and Boston saying that it gave her mental focus.

“This was a deliberate misrepresentation given to the health assessor. The answers were very detailed. They were backed up in interview verbally and on paper.”

In total she received benefits totalling £21,928 to which she was not entitled.

Judge Andrew Easteal, passing sentence, accused her of "extraordinary arrogance" and "deceit," adding: "This was a planned, detailed, gross deception that went on for several years. It was just inexcusable.”

Horton, from Stickney, Lincs, admitted charges of failing to notify the DWP of a change in circumstance between 5 February 2014 and 25 March 2015.

She also admitted making a false statement to obtain PIP between 25 March 2015 and 10 May 2017. She was given a 10 month jail sentence suspended for two years.

Source with picture

So no real punishment.

5 Apr 2019

Big Brother star's sister avoids jail for £21k benefit fraud

I didn't know Big Brother had 'stars' ... seems I'm just out of touch.

THE sister of a reality TV star was spared jail after a court heard she funded her celebrity lifestyle with £21,000 in illegal benefits.

Lauryn Goodman, sister of Celebrity Big Brother star Chloe, wept in the dock as details of her benefit fraud were read out.

The 28-year-old spent thousands on trips to Las Vegas and skiing in France with her sister. The reality TV star was said to have been mortified when she found out.

Hove Trial Centre heard she was now trying to return to paid work with HSBC bank. (!)

Goodman, from Portslade, was handed a seven-month prison sentence, suspended for two years. She will also have to do 200 hours’ unpaid work and pay £670 costs after the court heard she had already paid back all the money she claimed in benefits.

Prosecuting, Pierce Power said the seven offences had been committed between December 2013 and August 2016. Goodman claimed disability benefit and housing benefit totalling £21,007. She admitted the charges at an earlier hearing.

Mr Power said: “Ms Goodman failed to declare income of £370 a month from an insurance policy. She also had a joint mortgage with her mother on a house in Portslade.” The court heard she did not think the insurance money was income.

And she claimed she did not have access to several bank accounts which belonged to her grandmother and father.

She also had more than £16,000 in the bank.

The housing benefit was claimed on a flat in Brighton where she was the tenant but never paid any rent.

Mr Power said she used £3,500 to buy airline tickets to Las Vegas on a trip with sister Chloe. Money was also use to hire ski equipment on another holiday with her sister at Les Arcs in France.

Sally Mertens for Goodman said her client was in an ongoing battle with depression.

She said: “There is an inability to face the music as a result of telling lies and behaving dishonestly. She is very, very sorry for her conduct. Her sister, Chloe Goodman, who sits in the public gallery, was mortified to consider her conduct has exacerbated the situation. Ms Goodman has lost her good character. She is well educated and has had many opportunities.”

His Honour Judge David Rennie told Goodman the offending went on for some time but was essentially out of character.

“This is not who you are,” he said. “You have made some catastrophically bad decisions. But that is never an excuse for what is essentially stealing public money.”

Goodman made no comment as she walked free from court.

Source with pictures

19 Mar 2019

2014 benefit fraud comes to court

A woman suffering from poor health claimed more than £10,000 she was not entitled to when her condition improved.

Sami Farooq's claim for Disability Living Allowance was legitimate from the outset.

But when the 50-year-old's health improved and she gained employment working with a firm of woollen spinners she failed to tell anyone.

She pleaded guilty to dishonestly failing to notify the Department for Work and Pensions a change of circumstances affecting her entitlement to a benefit.

Farooq, from Crosland Moor, committed the offence between January and October, 2014.

Alex Bozman, prosecuting, said that she became well enough to take up employment with the company for a period of nine months during that year.

He told Kirklees magistrates : “As a consequence she obtained benefits to the value of £10,532 which she was not entitled to. The prosecution accepts that she was originally entitled to the benefits. But when she obtained work with the woollen spinners she accepts she should have notified the appropriate departments of this work. She said that she didn't think it was dishonest.”

Magistrates were told that Farooq has been out of trouble for almost a decade. The last offences on her record were shoplifting matters dating back 10 years.

The Huddersfield court heard that the overpaid cash is now being repaid to the DWP.

Andrew Stewardson, mitigating, said: “It's not a claim which was fraudulent from the outset – she has had some health troubles. She is now on benefits and not currently working.”

Magistrates described the offence as 'serious' and sentenced Farooq to an 18 week curfew. This will run between the hours of 7pm and 7am and be electronically monitored.

She must pay £85 court costs and £85 victim surcharge.

Source with pictures

27 Feb 2019

"Disabled" benefit cheat showed dogs at Crufts

A dog trainer who claimed she could hardly walk was caught out after she was photographed taking part in the country’s top show.

Cheating Linda Avery, aged 57, was pictured at Crufts exhibiting a collie while pocketing the highest rate of disability benefit, a court heard.

Investigators tailed Avery to a Devon show where they filmed her lifting and preparing dogs for the ring.

She was paid more than £12,000 to which she was not entitled over nearly two years, Plymouth Crown Court heard.

Judge Paul Darlow commented: “Her condition has improved enough to be seen running dogs around rings at Crufts. It is one hell of a recovery.”

Avery, who does walk with a stick, pleaded guilty to dishonestly failing to notify an improvement in her condition affecting her claim for Disability Living Allowance between October 2014 and July 2016.

The court heard that she started receiving the higher rate for DLA in late 2014.

Plymouth Live understands that she posted a picture on Facebook of her showing a dog at Crufts. Investigators then filmed her exhibiting at Paignton Dog Show.

Ali Rafati, for Avery, said she was still receiving benefits. He said: “She failed to notify improvements in her health and that resulted her receiving the higher rate benefit to which she would not have been entitled.”

Sally Daulton, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said that the authorities would be launching legal action to claw back the money through the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Avery, from Efford, was driven away in an expensive-looking VW Transporter Van.

Judge Darlow ordered a probation report and released Avery on bail until March 8.

19 Feb 2019

Benefit fraudster told to sell fish

A benefit cheat pictured up a tree and on a zipwire while claiming he could barely walk has been told he must sell his Koi carp and coin collection to pay back money he fraudulently claimed.

Paul Stevens, 70, and wife Alexandra, 49, were both handed suspended sentences last year after they exaggerated Mr Stevens’ claims for Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment.

The couple, who had denied the offences but were convicted by a jury, told the Department for Work and Pensions Mr Stevens needed help bathing, cooking, getting dressed and claimed he could not walk for long distances.

However, images shown at the trial showed Mr Stevens enjoying himself on a zipwire, helping prune a tree using a saw and working in the front garden of the couple’s home in Clacton.

Mrs Stevens had previously worked as a a benefits fraud investigator and then a tax fraud investigator and in 2015 began helping her husband cut corners to earn extra money.

The pair were back at Chelmsford Crown Court for a proceeds of crime hearing where it was revealed Mr Stevens’ benefit figure - the amount the Crown Prosecution Service allege he has obtained as a result of criminal conduct - is £45,000 while Mrs Stevens’ is close to £17,000.

However, the figures do not include money which they were legally entitled to after Mr Stevens was injured at work. He began claiming disability benefits in 1995 for conditions including a degenerative bone disease.

John Livingston, prosecuting, said Mr Stevens had assets of £13,000 which does not include any equity in property, a coin collection estimated to be worth £10,000 and a shoal of Koi carp which were likely valued at £3,000.

There are also issues over the ownership of the marital home which is believed to be solely in Mrs Stevens’ name.

Mr Livingston alleged their home has increased in value by £13,900 since they bought it using fraudulently gained cash giving them a pecuniary advantage.

Judge David Turner QC urged Mr Stevens to get his collections valued “pretty darn quickly” ahead of a hearing in April which will determine how much the pair have to pay back.

He urged parties to come to an arrangement quickly about the amount owed so it could be resolved.

He added: “The last thing I want is more public money to be spent than the amount which is actually recovered. This has got to be resolved. The jurisdiction must be based in reality.”

Mr Stevens was jailed for nine months suspended for two years after being convicted of failing to notify a change of circumstances and of making dishonest representation to obtain benefit.

Mrs Stevens was handed a four month suspended term for dishonest representation to obtain benefit.

Source

28 Jan 2019

Serious benefit fraud brings slap on the wrist

A Reading woman who claimed more than £60,000 in benefits for care her disabled daughter never received has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Bia Abdul, 45, submitted bogus invoices for private care services between 2013 and 2016 in order to receive payments.

She was found guilty at Reading Crown Court of eight fraud offences, and handed a two-year prison sentence suspended for two years.

Abdul was also ordered to do 50 hours of unpaid community service.

Reading Borough Council said Abdul went to "extensive lengths" to defraud the authority and "used the funds for things unrelated to her daughter's care package".

The deceit was uncovered after discrepancies were spotted by council staff in her paperwork.

Recorder Patrick Talbot told Abdul she had shown "no remorse" and that her "culpability was high", a statement from Reading Borough Council said.

A jury found her guilty following a 12-day trial of fraud by abuse of position, concealing criminal property, three counts of furnishing false information and three counts of fraud by false representation.

Reading council said it was believed to be the "largest ever" fraud in the UK related to the direct payments system.

Councillor Tony Jones, Reading's council's lead member for adult social care, said: "The successful prosecution was the culmination of a proactive investigation which successfully uncovered a large-scale fraud of the direct payments system. This was a very difficult offence to identify and prove, and shows just how much effort went into concealing this particular fraud."

Abdul was not ordered to cover costs due to her inability to pay.

Source

22 Jan 2019

Suspended sentence for £46k benefit fraud

A benefits cheat swindled over £46,000 of housing handouts — while boasting of her Spanish property business on Facebook.

Louise Jones, 50, was claiming UK disability benefits for nearly a decade despite living in Spain.

She was also claiming housing benefits for a property in Victoria Dock, Hull, alongside one in nearby Cleethorpes. Both were owned by her husband, Bruce McHardy — but the couple were at that time living near Alicante, in Spain.

In total, Jones illegally claimed a staggering £46,000 between 2007 and 2016.

But Exeter Crown Court heard how Jones caught herself out after she posted pictures of her wedding to Mr McHardy, a property developer, on social media.

With photos on her Facebook page of her engagement to Mr McHardy in 2015 and her wedding in July 2017, she also described herself as managing director of his Spanish property business, McHardy Spanish Properties.

Jones' Linkedin page also listed her as the managing director of another property venture, Blanca Sales and Rentals.

She admitted eight counts of benefit fraud and was jailed for six months, suspended for two years, by Judge Peter Johnson. He also set a timetable for the seizure of any remaining assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The court heard that Jones was in a "controlling" relationship and that the couple's marriage was short-lived, with Mr McHardy leaving her as soon as her benefits cash dried up.

She had to move back to her family in Devon and face the music.

The judge told her: "You were a person of good character but that has been blown away. This was dishonesty of a high order which represents a deeply entrenched course of dishonesty on your part. You claimed housing benefit on two properties where you said you were living when you clearly were not. I accept you were perhaps in thrall to a controlling individual in a relationship which came to an end as a result of the cessation of these benefits."

Miss Sally Daulton, prosecuting, said Jones claimed a total of £46,867.14 in disability and housing benefits and employment support allowance.

She also claimed another £33,000 in severe disability allowance, but was entitled to claim that even when living in Spain.

Checks showed she had spent more than half of each year abroad and Facebook posts recorded her relationship with Mr McHardy.

She made full admissions, has never been in trouble before, and medical notes showed she did suffer from arthritis and depression and would have been entitled to claim benefits in Britain.

Source with pictures

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.”

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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.

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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'.

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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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