Southport benefits cheat filmed driving forklift truck at scrapyard is jailed
A CONMAN who swindled nearly £35,000 in benefits by claiming he could barely walk was captured on camera running a scrapyard.
For nearly eight years James Smith, 48, said he need full-time care because of a disabled leg and an enlarged heart.
But Liverpool crown court heard in 2006 he took over the running of his dad’s Chorley scrapyard. Undercover officers videoed him driving a forklift truck and pushing cars around.
Jailing him for 10 months, Judge Nigel Gilmour QC said he had “pulled the wool” over his GP’s eyes.
He told Smith: “You need punishment to deter you and to deter others who abuse the benefits system.”
Prosecutor Nicola Daley said Smith had been receiving the highest rate of disability living allowance because he had claimed he was incapable of caring for himself.
In 2005, he filled in a form saying he was breathless even sitting down, struggled to get out of a chair and couldn’t walk more then 20 metres. But following a tip-off, investigators placed Smith under surveillance. Miss Daley said: “The defendant was seen going to the scrapyard, driving heavy vehicles, moving items around there and not really having any real difficulties.”
Smith, of Shaws Road, Birkdale, also claimed housing benefit and council tax despite living in a Southport home owned by his dad.
He admitted one charge of dishonestly making false representations and two of dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances between August 2004 and January 2008, making a total overpayment of £34,711.
His barrister Desmond Lennon said Smith had suffered a severe leg injury and was still not in the best of health.
A DWP spokesman said: “A lot of people are dependant on society security benefits. We have a duty to make sure benefits are given to the right people.”
Anyone with information about alleged benefits cheats should call the DWP free hotline on 0800 854440 or Sefton council on 0800 0567000 THE ECHO