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Brierley Hill benefits fraudster jailed
8:00am Friday 13th April 2012 in Local
A BRIERLEY Hill man who fiddled more than £34,000 in disability benefits claiming he struggled to walk and hold a knife and fork when he was playing 18 holes of golf three times a week has been jailed for 26 weeks.
Michael Scott, of Gayfield Avenue, maintained he was in severe pain from his lower spine and hip, he had to crawl on all fours to get upstairs and he could only get down again by sliding on his back.
But the 59-year-old grandfather-of-two, who was also a keen fisherman, managed to reduce his golf handicap from 17 to 14 with his frequent outings to the two courses where he was a member.
The fraudster, in his claim for benefits, claimed he got breathless when out walking, he could not a grip on utensils because of severe cramps in his hands and his condition was "ongoing and worsening."
But Scott, who told goverment officials he could not walk on uneven surfaces, was rumbled when information came to light that he was an active golfer and clearly able to play on a regular basis.
He was a member of clubs in Dudley and West Bromwich and also took part in weekly golf competitions, Gurdeep Garcha, prosecuting, told Wolverhampton Crown Court.
He said Scott's claims over an eight-year period were not fraudulent from the outset but they became dishonest after just six months.
Mr Garcha said Scott, who was also able to attend a speedway meeting which proved he did not need assistance for his "disability", pocketed a total overpayment of £34,104.
He said Scott - who admitted failing to notify the Department of Work and Pensions of a change in his circumstances between August 2002 and November 2010 - spent hundreds of pounds on golfing equipment. He also bought a fishing licence and was able to bend down and clean the family car on a regular basis.
Judge Robin Onions told Scott, who wept in the dock, it was determined fraud over a substantial period of time.
He added: "The sentence must act as a punishment for you and as warning to others tempted to commit a similar offence."
There was a price to be paid for the dishonesty, he ruled, as he stressed: "It must be a period of custody."
Danny Smith, defending Scott, said he had been too scared to come off benefits because the loss of the money would have caused serious problems.
He told the court Scott was in arreas with his mortgage and had credit card debts and loans to repay, adding: "He has not been leading a champagne and caviar life.”
He continued: “The reality of what he has done has now hit him. He knows his liberty is far more important than playing golf or having nice things around him."