Black Lace singer jailed for £25,000 benefit fraud

Black Lace frontman Dene Michael has been jailed for six months for claiming nearly £25,000 in benefits while performing with the group.

The entertainer, who appeared at Leeds Crown Court under his real name Dene Michael Betteridge, told the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) that he was unable to walk unaided and was effectively housebound.

He made a number of claims over a two-year period while playing a "vigorous" role in front of audiences with Black Lace.

Angus MacDonald, prosecuting, told the court that Betteridge, 59, made claims for employment support allowance, housing benefit and council tax and disability living allowance.

His wife, Karen Betteridge, was also sentenced for benefit fraud after claiming more than £2,000 in carer's allowance, saying her husband could not look after himself.

While making the claims, between 2012 and 2014, Betteridge said he was not working, could hardly walk, needed crutches, two walking sticks and a mobility scooter to move around, and needed constant support. In one claim, he said his illness began in late 2011 and had deteriorated to the point where he could barely stand. All he could do during the day was watch television and he was effectively housebound, he said.

Dene Michael
Dene Michael (Danny Lawson / PA)

He declared his income over one period was £1,250, when it was actually around £9,000, and said he had only performed with his band once, when he had appeared on stage 14 times during that time.

Mr MacDonald said: "Dene Betteridge was part of the pop or rock group Black Lace. He was lead singer and frontman. This role involved vigorous physical activity. Despite that, over 18 months to two years, the defendant made fraudulent claims."

In mitigation, a probation officer told the court that Betteridge does suffer from genuine health problems, including asthma, mobility problems and sciatica.

Sentencing the couple, who are both from Leeds, Judge Jacqueline Davies said: "It's not disputed the fraud was persistent from the outset but not of a sophisticated manner. You would have inevitably been discovered offending in this way."

She told Betteridge there were no grounds to suspend his sentence. She said: "You were claiming a sum that was not insignificant at a time when we all know this country was, and indeed still is, undergoing times of stress as far as publicly funded benefits are concerned."

Judge Davies sentenced his wife, 52, to a 12-month community order and told her she would have to perform 100 hours of unpaid work.

Black Lace are best known for their hit song Agadoo and other party standards like Superman and Do The Conga. Betteridge was not part of the original line-up but joined in 1986.

In 2015, he took part in BBC TV talent show The Voice and has appeared on the ITV legal show Judge Rinder.

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