Cracking Down on Benefit Fraud

A Staffordshire medium has been jailed for eight months after being filmed exercising at the gym whilst claiming he was unfit to work and drawing disability benefits.

The medium and his wife were convicted for benefit fraud which totalled at a whopping £103,000. The conviction follows a joint investigation between HM Revenue and Customs, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Staffordshire County and Borough Councils.

He was sentenced to eight months in prison on four counts of fraud, whilst his wife, who was also claiming disability and living allowance, was given an eight month sentence suspended by 18 months at the court proceedings.

Despite frequently travelling around the world on tour as a spiritual medium, the convicted continued to claim incapacity benefits and living disability allowance from the taxpayer, coming in at £35,496 and £22,848 respectively. It was also revealed that he had failed to pay back £10,000 for income tax and his national insurance contributions. His wife received direct payments from Staffordshire County Council, coming to a total of £44,376. Their respective claims date from 1998 and 2014, leaving the court to decide later in the year just how much the couple will have to pay back.

On average, benefit fraud incurs a loss of £2.0bn per annum for the tax payer and the UK economy out of the allocated £194.bn that goes into benefits every year.

The benefit fraud midlands case and sentencing has been well received by officials involved in the investigations of benefit fraud. Colin Booker, the assistant director of Criminal Investigation at HMRC, had this to say about the prosecution:

“This prosecution will send a strong message that, along with our partners in DWP, we will bring those stealing from the UK economy and the British tax payer to justice.”

Meanwhile Alan White, the Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for health, care and wellbeing, remarked that “it is extremely disappointing to see that someone has shown blatant disregard for others who depend on this money.”
The direct payments that Abbott’s wife received from the council were created in order to give those on benefits more freedom and independence. Evidently, opportunities for exploitation have arisen from this as this case indicates.
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