A benefits cheat who claimed he could only walk 30 yards and pocketed £48,000 in disability handouts was busted after a hidden camera captured him carrying heavy items while working as a laborer.
Michael Holland, a dad-of-three, from Barlaston Road, Blurton, Staffordshire, has been jailed for 10 months.
He was also filmed easily getting in and out of his van while working as for Aspire Housing – despite claiming his injury was so bad that 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.
Prosecutor Nick Tatlow said the Department for Works and Pensions carried out secret surveillance on the defendant from September 3 to September 22 in 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 laborer.
‘His immediate supervisor described him as being able to walk 90 yards across the yard at a normal pace without difficulty.’
The court heard that Holland’s original benefit claim in February 1995 was refused and the decision was upheld after a review.
But Holland then 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 later said 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 from 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.’
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.’
Anyone who suspects someone of fraudulently claiming benefits can call the National Benefit Fraud Hotline on 0800 854 440.
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