A benefits cheat claimed he was unable to walk more than 15 yards without a rest – only to be caught on camera crossing the finishing line of a half marathon.
When investigators started probing claimant Noel Sanders they discovered he had run in 27 races in three years – all at least 10km long – despite claiming he was barely able to walk a few yards and needed support to help him stand.
The 55-year-old from Brierley Hill, Dudley, told medics he struggled with simple daily tasks such as cutting up food, getting up in the morning and washing himself.
He described taking a number of prescription drugs to help with blood pressure, ease his pain and help him with depression.
But unbeknown to the authorities, Sanders had joined a running club in the Black Country and was going on regular training runs.
Sanders, who is now unemployed but recently worked as an administration assistant, had been secretary of Stourbridge Running Club for two years.
In total Sanders claimed £12,290 in disability living allowance and £5,173 in Jobseeker’s Allowance between September 19, 2009, and January 28 this year.
Sanders, of High Street, Brockmoor, pleaded guilty to two charges of dishonestly failing to notify the Department for Work and Pensions of a change in the circumstance affecting his benefit entitlement.
He was given a 12-week suspended prison sentence for six months to run concurrently on both charges during a hearing at Dudley Magistrates Court yesterday.
Sanders will also be supervised by the probation service and have to take part in a programme to educate him on benefit fraud. He will also have to pay £100 court costs.
In sentencing, chairman of the bench Mrs Dawn Gill, called Sanders’ actions ‘very serious’ adding he narrowly escaped going to prison only after paying back the full amount he had claimed.
Mrs Suki Rai, prosecuting, said Sanders had initially claimed he suffered from a range of health problems including rheumatoid arthritis.
According to records of his races, Sanders ' best time for 10k was 63.02 minutes, a half marathon 2.29 hours and for 20 miles 3.58 hours.
Witnesses talked of him taking part in six-mile cross country events in muddy and slippery conditions. They had never seen him use a walking aid, the court was told.
Sanders had a medical examination in 2002 when he made the initial claim about being unable to walk more than 15 yards without taking a rest. In 2002, he was awarded the higher rate mobility component because he required help to cook and prepare a main meal for himself.
Dudley Magistrates Court heard Sanders is taking 14 different prescription medications including blood pressure tablets, painkillers and anti-depressants.
Mrs Suki Rai, prosecuting, told the court that Sanders had initially claimed he suffered from a range of health problems including rheumatoid arthritis when he was first examined. The assessment nurse had confirmed his health problems and approved his right to claim.
But around three years ago Sanders had resolved to improve his health by getting fitter and taking up running again, which he had done some years before.
Following investigations by the Department for Work and Pensions they found Sanders had been running in events and taking part in weekly training runs with fellow club members. Since 2009 while Sanders was taking part in events, investigators found he had claimed £12,290 in disability living allowance and £5,173 in jobseeker’s allowance.
His father had died in January last year and his mother some years beforehand which had partly caused his depression.
Mr Jahangeer Aslam, defending, said: “He has accepted his wrong doing.
“He had still all his issues if not more. He had lost a lot of weight which had assisted his mobility. But he was still suffering considerable pain. He has told me that he has been stupid.
“He is extremely embarrassed and he has lost his position in the community where he was helping other people.”
Sanders had taken part in the London Marathon in 2004 helping to raise money for pain management services at the Corbett Hospital in Stourbridge.
He said previously that in 1997 he began suffering from viral infections, fatigue and chronic muscular pain which forced him to quit as a scientist for an aerospace company.