Owner of dog training firm who told benefit bosses he couldn't walk must do unpaid work
A man who declared to benefit bosses that he 'couldn't walk more than 20 metres' was working as a HGV driver and running his own dog training business, a court has heard.
Businessman Paul Johnson, 53, of Chapel Meadows, Tarleton, Preston, claims he paid Â£1,000 for someone to help fill out his claim form to the DWP for Personal Independence Payment (PIP).His lies led to him being paid more than Â£20,000 in benefits that he was not entitled, Preston Crown Court heard.He was running Mere Brow Gun Dogs at the time.He had claimed he used a walking stick, and that he had to be accompanied when outside in case he fell, and even exaggerated his conditions during a home visit by a health worker. He claimed the cash over a period of two years and 10 months, including a Â£5,500 lump sum as a backdated payment.The court previously heard that Johnson had stated as part of his claim for disability benefits that he needed assistance when going to the toilet, and that he couldn’t manage stairs. Recorder David Temkin said he accepted he was remorseful but added: "These benefits are designed to help people with long term health issues and disabilities so they can cope."Whilst undoubtedly you did suffer a number of ailments, nevertheless you made dishonest representations relating to your lungs, knees and general mobility."Even if you didn't complete it the words were yours and the lies were yours."If it's true you and another person conspired in this way it has the potential to aggravate your position."The fact you say you paid Â£1,000 demonstrates you knew you were in for some significant financial reward, though I accept this was not actually proven."Your Facebook profile was monitored and revealed the extent of your lies. Your physical capabilities were far better than you had stated. "The fact is investigators watched you as you walked unaided distances of 800 yards. One investigator never saw you using a stick or having a carer with you."The court heard in one statement Johnson said: "I struggle to stand for any period of time due to the pain in my left knee."I struggle to get in and out of showers. I fall a lot."He was given 10 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, a curfew, and must do 200 hours unpaid work.A DWP spokesman said: “Only a small minority of benefit claimants are dishonest, but cases like these show how we are catching the minority who cheat the system and divert taxpayers' money from those 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.”Anyone who suspects someone of fraudulently claiming benefits can call the National Benefit Fraud Hotline on 0800 854 440.