Howzat for fraud? Cricketing disability benefit cheat claimed £16,000
A fraudster who pocketed more than £16,000 saying he could barely walk has been caught out by investigators who were tipped off that his benefits claim was just not cricket.
Department of Work and Pensions investigators secretly filmed cricketer Kenneth Hodgson for two-and-a-half hours while he fielded in various positions and for long periods on August 17, 2017.
He was pictured arriving at the ground carrying a fully-laden cricket bag before practising throwing and catching during the warm-up.
Then the 45-year-old from Wenlock Rise, Bridgnorth, was seen diving to stop the ball, chasing after it and throwing it the wicket keeper while spending 40 overs in the field, during which he enthusiastically encouraged team mates before being replaced by the 12th man.
Scorecards and records suggested he had been playing for Highley Cricket Club since 2013, though he insisted he did not actually play for a team until the following year, maintaining his name had been used by unsigned players.
He eventually confessed to investigators that since starting to play he had batted and bowled when required as well as fielding.
Hodgson had been receiving Disability Living Allowance, later called Personal Independence Payment, since 2008 but claimed in a self assessment renewal form which he signed on August 10, 2010: "I have to walk everywhere with my elbow crutches."
The statement continued: "On good days crutches are sufficient but on bad days I need more support hence I do not go outdoors, so stay in."
He said he had four crumbling spinal discs and nerve damage to his legs which meant he was unable to walk more than four metres very slowly without experiencing "severe discomfort".
The statement maintained his legs would just "give way," leading to him falling every week and needing someone to help him back on his feet "stage by stage".
Hodgson also detailed his difficulties getting in and out of the bath and explained the problems he encountered while trying to stand to make meals.
He told the Examining Medical Practitioner in January 2011 that he only went out "once a week to watch his son play rugby".
The form warned he must report any improvement in his condition, but he said nothing to the DWP until a tip-off triggered an investigation which uncovered the truth about the double dealing sportsman who, it was alleged, was overpaid up to £16,449 in benefits he had not been entitled to between May 3, 2014 and April 24, 2018.
Hodgson admitted failing to notify change of circumstances affecting entitlement to social security benefit at Telford Magistrates Court yesterday.
Shakel Ahmed, defending, said Hodgson has been paying the money back directly to the DWP for the last 12 months.
Mr Ahmed said: “He was unable to manage his condition, but it improved with medication.”
Magistrates gave him a 12-month community order, 60 hours unpaid work and ordered him to pay court and prosecution costs and a victim surcharge totalling £405.
A DWP spokesman said: “Only a small minority of benefit claimants are dishonest, but cases like this show how we are catching those who cheat the system and divert taxpayers' money from the people who need it.
“We are determined to catch those we suspect of fraudulently claiming benefits by following up on tip-offs, undertaking surveillance and working with local councils.”
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