A MAN has been jailed for attempts to defraud a Covid business support fund, receiving one such pay-out.

The £10,000 grant was paid into Carl Roger Coulson’s bank account, following an application made to Durham County Council in the name of a motor exchange business in Langley Moor, in April last year.

Durham Crown Court was told Coulson almost immediately withdrew the money from his bank and passed it on to a man he named but who has not been traced.

Sam Faulks, prosecuting, said he made a further paper application using another business name, only to be declined as a legitimate payment had already been made to that applicant.

Coulson, 35, of St Andrew’s Road, Bishop Auckland, admitted fraud and theft relating to the bogus applications.

Mr Faulks read a statement from Stephen Carter, of Durham County Council, who said the authority adopts a “zero tolerance” to fraud, which causes a loss to the public purse at a time when public funds are “already stretched”.

Mr Carter said: “Carl Coulson fraudulently obtained money there to support businesses which are genuinely struggling.”

The court heard that Coulson has no previous offences of dishonesty on his record but does have other unrelated offences.

Mark Styles, in mitigation, said the defendant was “very frank” about his actions.

He said the “starting point” was the fact that the person who ran the business for which Coulson made the unsuccessful application used to live at his address and he continued to receive its correspondence long after that man left the property.

Mr Styles described one of the fraudulent applications as, “hand-written and clearly ham-fisted,” while he was, “approached by others”, over the further application.

Judge Ray Singh said despite those claims, £10,000 of much-needed public money was lost at a time the country is, “going through a crisis.”

“It’s ultimately the tax payer that meets the burden. These were planned offences, not spontaneous.

“It’s unimaginable that people are taking advantage of the situation.

“These are particularly mean, distasteful offences, with people such as you trying to profit from the misery the country is going through.”

Imposing an eight-month prison sentence, Judge Singh said it would not be suspended as a message of deterrence to others seeking to benefit from the pandemic.