'Disabled' benefits cheat jailed: for working in gym


GymAP Photo/Sang Tan

Alan Lawson, of Bishop Auckland, has been jailed for cheating the benefits system out of almost £90,000, after it emerged that while he had been claiming disability benefits he had also been working as a gym instructor.

So how did he do it, and is this the most outlandish benefit cheat story out there?


58-year-old Lawson first applied for disability benefit in 1995, after an accident that required back surgery - which genuinely left him disabled and unable to work. However, he improved over time, and by October 2003 he was well enough to work - which is when he started working for a council-run leisure centre.

However, he continued to claim benefits and in 2010 actually increased the benefits he claimed - adding housing and Council Tax benefit. He was caught at the end of 2011, by which time he had claimed over £80,000.

Ian West, who represented Lawson at Durham County Court said he 'slid' into this dishonesty, working a few hours a week and then gradually building them up. However, Recorder Alistair MacDonald QC, was unmoved. He jailed him for eight months and said: "You became engrained in this dishonesty. Many people are forced out of work but do not claim benefits to which they are not entitled. Every penny obtained fraudulently by you is a penny legitimately paid by taxpayers."

It's a shocking sum of money, and it's alarming that the crime took eight years to come to light. It's especially odd given that he was actually working for the council.

However, it's far from the only shocking take of a benefit cheat.

1. Lavish Lifestyle

In November last year, Helen Gough was sentenced to two years in jail, after cheating the benefits system out of an incredible £104,000. She used the money to support a lavish lifestyle in a mansion in the village of Wheatcroft near Crich. She also bred horses and drove a BMW and a Land Rover Discovery. Judge Andrew Hamilton said: "It is the most disgraceful case of its kind."

2. Lottery winner

John Anderson from Dundee was jailed for six months last August, after it emerged he had not told authorities after winning £100,000 on a scratchcard back in 2010. Over the years the 53-year-old had claimed £6,000 in benefits that he was not entitled to. He then squandered the cash he had won, and while awaiting sentencing had been living on charitable food banks.

3. Conwoman

In November, Stacey Simpson, a 25 year old from Huddersfield West Yorkshire was jailed for ten weeks, after fraudulently claiming £6,000 in a web of lies. She lived with her long-term partner, and told him she was an air hostess. However, rather than disappearing off to work she was unemployed, and visiting two other boyfriends - both of whom lived a few streets away and thought she was working.

One of her boyfriends had two properties repossessed during their relationship, and she fraudulently let one of them out during this time. It was only after the tenant complained that her deceit was discovered.

4. Massive sums

In November Abdul Esfandmozd from Somers Town in Hampshire was ordered by a court to repay over £300,000 and jailed for four years, after being found guilt of benefit fraud of £100,000.

He claimed to be disabled and to be cared for by a number of professionals, but the council became suspicious after noting that one of them was called D Duck, another was P Shiltern, and a third was D Thompson. The investigation revealed that he had made a total of £318,593 - including a separate £140,000 from the DWP and two properties he bought with the money. He has nine months to repay the money or will face longer in prison.

5. Property mogul

Adrian Callen, from Bedminster Down in Bristol was jailed for six months at the end of last year, after defrauding the system of £73,000 in benefits over eight years, and using the money to build up a property portfolio. The defence claimed he hadn't made much from his ten properties, and that most of them were in negative equity, but Judge Julian Lambert said this sort of thing "makes honest folk who struggle to get by sick".

HMRC's biggest tax cheats of 2012

HMRC's biggest tax cheats of 2012

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