A BENEFITS cheat who pocketed more than £24,000 in disability payments while opening the batting and keeping wicket for his local cricket team is likely to lose his home after being ordered to return a substantial chunk of his ill-gotten gains.

Stewart Lorains carried on claiming Disability Living Allowance while investigators from the Department for Work and Pensions observed and secretly filmed him regularly turning out for Boosbeck cricket team, in east Cleveland.

The 54-year-old previously received a suspended jail sentence after admitting failing to notify a change of circumstances and returned to Teesside Crown Court to hear the outcome of a Proceeds of Crime Application brought by the Crown.

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Prosecutor Martin Towers told the court it had been agreed that arthritis sufferer Lorain - who claimed he needed daily assistance with everyday tasks such as washing, going to the toilet and dressing - benefitted from his crime to the tune of £24,505.

It was also agreed that there was £16,209 available from his existing assets which could be returned to the state.

Mr Towers revealed that the house Lorains shares with his wife in St Cuthbert's Walk, Liverton Mines, Saltburn, east Cleveland was valued at £74,500, while the outstanding mortgage repayments on it were £42,081 in total.

Judge Peter Bowers asked Lorains' barrister Tamara Pawson if he would now have to sell the house, to which she nodded and replied: “It is his only main asset”.

Lorains – described as an “active sportsman” and “upstanding member of the community” - was given a four month jail sentence, suspended for 12 months, in September last year after exaggerating the extent of his illness.

He had begun claiming benefit in November 2008 for arthritis, diabetes and asthma. But by May 2009 his condition had improved to such an extent that he was witnessed performing with the bat and gloves for Boosbeck for whom he played 41 games between 2009 and 2012, scoring 614 runs.

The Northern Echo:

Stewart Lorains (right) in action for Boosbeck

In all Lorains' fraudulent claim stretched from May 6, 2009 to October 23, 2012.

Lorains, who has also been a boxing coach and football referee, agreed through his barrister to pay the available total, £16,209, within six months, and was ordered to do so by Judge Bowers.

The judge, who conceded that the value of Lorains' home was not great, said if he defaulted on the amount owing he would be jailed for 12 months.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: "This Government is introducing tougher new measures to further deter people from committing benefit fraud.

"Fraudsters need to know on top of any punishments handed by the court, we always seek to recover the stolen money back from convicted criminals."