Benefit cheat was overpaid £7,000

Magistrates' Court
Magistrates' Court
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A man who claimed thousands in benefits while holding down a £1,100 a month job has been ordered to do 100 hours of unpaid work.

Brian Mercer, 46, of Grange Avenue, Preston, was claiming housing benefit and Jobseeker’s allowance - but was working at Preston Guild Hall at the time of some of the offences.

He had also worked for Liberty Living, a student accommodation firm, during the period of other offences, Preston Magistrates’ Court was told.

Prosecuting, Martin Bardsley said the overpayment amounted to £7,645.

He added: “ He was working for Liberty Living from May to August 2014 and at the Guild Hall from October 2014. In interview he confirmed he had been claiming benefits, that he’d done work for both, and agreed with the information provided by those employers. He said he had not reported the change as a lot had gone in his life, he said he should not have done what he had done and admitted he’d been dishonest.

“The various departments are taking back the money over the next few years.

“The defendant does have some previous convictions and in 2006 there was a similar matter.”

Mercer admitted five counts of benefit fraud by failing to notify change and making dishonest statements.

Defending, Michael Flynn said he had been affected by his sister cancer diagnosis and a split from his partner.

He added: “ Whilst they are things going on in the background they are not mitigation.

“He was on a zero hours contract at the time which influenced his decision though he tells me he’s now in permanent employment and has a stable income.

“At present he is off sick due to depression and is in receipt of sickness benefit, and is returning to work in June when his sick note expires.

The district judge said: “ What aggravates this is you’ve done it before. Having said that, you’ve been out of trouble for a long time so I’m going to sentence you on the basis there was a lot of chaos in your life at this time.

He must pay an £85 surcharge and £120 costs.