Milkman receives suspended sentence for eight-year fraud, skimming off benefits (From The Northern Echo)
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Easington milkman receives suspended sentence for eight-year fraud, skimming off benefits
A MILKMAN who creamed off £75,689 from the public purse, illegally claiming benefits while operating his round, today (Tuesday September 3) walked free from court.
But Shorn Smith must now paying back £1,000 per year, plus £1,472 in court costs and perform 200-hours’ unpaid work for his eight-year failure to declare his earnings.
Durham Crown Court heard the claim began legitimately, as the then miner began receiving sickness benefit after suffering a prolapsed disc, in May 1993.
Mark Styles, prosecuting, said by 2003 he was working as a milkman, while still receiving benefits, which he continued to be paid over the coming eight years.
Mr Styles said a tip-off was received in 2011 stating that Smith was operating a milk round and had received money from his late father’s estate.
He was interviewed in early 2012 and conceded he had not declared he was working.
Mr Styles said the overpayment totalled £75,869, mainly in incapacity benefit, but also housing and council tax benefits.
This was off-set, however, by about £31,000 to which he would have been entitled in tax credits had he declared he was working.
Smith, 49, of Cardiff Street, Easington Colliery, admitted nine counts of failing to notify change of circumstances and furnishing false information, relating to the benefits claims.
Chris Morrison, mitigating, said: “There’s no suggestion of any previous immoral history and this was not fraudulent from the outset. He was legitimately on sickness benefit.
“Money was tight when he was asked to help with a milk round, collecting payments on the doorstep, in 2001.
“In time he was offered the business, and borrowed £2,000 from his father, to set it up and run with his son.
“It’s not a terribly profitable business, given competition from the supermarkets.
“It’s not a case of a man living an extravagant lifestyle, high on the hog.
“Much of the money from his inheritance went on improvements to the matrimonial home and purchasing a vehicle for the business.
“By his dishonest claiming of benefits he’s actually only £34,456 to the good as he would have been entitled to working tax credits.”
Judge Christopher Prince told Smith: “Between 2003 and 2011 you, effectively, stole more than £34,000 from the public purse.
“The public, understandably, has complete contempt for people such as you who steal from public funds, set up for those most in need, for their own selfish and greedy purposes.”
He imposed a three-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, but ordered Smith to perform 200 hours’ unpaid work and pay £1,472 costs.
The court heard he is also repaying £1,000 a year to the Department for Work and Pensions.