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Howzat! Boosbeck cricketing benefits cheat is finally caught out
A BENEFITS sponger who claimed he could barely get out of bed was the opening batsman and wicket-keeper for his local cricket club, a court heard yesterday.
Stewart Lorains pocketed more than £22,000 in Disability Living Allowance while starring with the bat and gloves for Boosbeck, east Cleveland.
The 53-year-old claimed to have diabetes, asthma and psoriatic arthropathy - an arthritic condition - and needed daily help from his sister for everyday tasks.
On his application form, he said he was constantly in pain, was slow at walking, and needed assistance to wash, go to the toilet and with eating and dressing.
The Department for Work and Pensions received Lorains' application in the summer of 2008 and started paying him the benefit in November of that year.
Prosecutor Martin Towers told Teesside Crown Court: "It can be said with certainty that as from May 2009, Mr Lorains was a great deal better than he disclosed.
Stewart Lorains, right, in action as wicket keeper for Boosbeck
"He was an active cricketer from 2009 to 2011. The prosecution obtained various statistics and observed him when he kept wicket and opened the batting."
Lorains - who describes cricket as "my life and soul" and who according to the Boosbeck club website played 41 games between 2009 and 2012, scoring 614 runs at an average of 18 - was also a boxing coach and football referee, his barrister Tamara Pawson told Judge Howard Crowson.
She said: "When his condition slightly improved and he was allowed the chance to play cricket again, he self-medicated, and he took the chance to play.
"This is not a man who deliberately defrauded the Government to live some kind of elaborate lifestyle. He accepts he exaggerated the extent of his condition to a degree."
Lorains, of St Cuthberts Walk, Liverton Mines, east Cleveland, pleaded guilty to failing to notify a change of circumstances at an earlier hearing.
Yesterday, he was given a four-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, after Judge Crowson heard he was a carer for his wife who has arthritis.
Miss Pawson told the judge: "If he goes to prison today, his wife will suffer dramatically. While he deserves to be punished, she clearly does not.
"An immediate custodial sentence would have significant negative consequences upon Mr Lorains and in likelihood create more difficulties for him.
"He has been an upstanding member of the community. Prior to the onset of rheumatoid arthritis, he was a very active sportsman. He describes cricket as his life and soul."
Judge Crowson told grandfather Lorains: "You have had a good life as a volunteer, helping young cricketers and boxers and doing a lot of work for others.
"You realised you were not as poorly any more and allowed them to pay out more than you were entitled to.
"It is an unhappy situation that once the mis-statement has been made it can be forgotten and the money received, and it's not really harming anyone, but the reality is it is harming us all."
Speaking after the case, James Blake, Department of Work and Pensions fraud investigator, said benefit cheats needed to know that fraud investigators were targeting them.
"We use data matching, act on tip-offs and if we need clear evidence on film we will use the latest covert technology to get it," he said. "In this case the defendant was filmed playing cricket, but we are able to track fraudsters in a variety of situations and circumstances, as well as following people from home to work and back again."
STEWART LORAINS' CRICKET RECORD
With the bat
With the ball
With the gloves
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