Cheating builder caught in the act

VIDEO CHEATING builder David Wright was in so much pain from a back injury that he could not bend or kneel, could not drive and had regular falls.

CHEATING builder David Wright was in so much pain from a back injury that he could not bend or kneel, could not drive and had regular falls.

At least that is what he told the government department which was paying him hundreds of pounds in benefits to help him get by while he couldn't work.

Instead, while he pocketed regular payments of Disability Living Allowance and incapacity benefit, he was making a living as a self-employed builder - lifting heavy items with ease and even offering a 24-hour call-out service.

But today 46-year-old Wright, of The Fitches, Knodishall, bears the humiliation of wearing an electronic tag which traces his every move and he is banned from going out between 10pm and 6am.

District Judge David Cooper slapped the three-month curfew on the married father-of-three after giving him a ten-week suspended jail sentence.

He told Wright: “People like you are cheating the public.”

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Wright pleaded guilty at South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court to making a false statement to obtain benefit or payment.

The court heard that between April 12 and August 19 last year he made false claims of disability living allowance (DLA) after he failed to notify the Department for Work and Pensions that he had recovered from his back injury enough to go back to work.

He claimed £2,132.60 in DLA which he should not have received and was also paid £217.14 in incapacity benefit which he was not entitled to.

In all he dishonestly claimed £2,349.74 and is now being forced to make regular payments until he has paid the full amount back.

Wright's web of deceit was uncovered when investigators working for the DWP spied him lifting heavy materials and working without any apparent physical discomfort.

He was seen loading paving slabs into his van, lifting sheets of plasterboard and bags of plaster and even replacing manhole covers.

Andrew Riley, prosecuting, said Wright was carrying out jobs in Woodbridge and Needham Market and even advertised his services in a community newspaper in Woodbridge.

He said it quickly became plain to the investigators that he was not injured as he claimed.

Mr Riley told judge Cooper during the hearing: “Surveillance was carried out which showed that was not the case. The video shows him doing all sorts of things.”

Ian Duckworth, mitigating, said in the DWP video Wright “clearly manages to unload and load” his van.

“He does not look as if he is in any difficulty,” he said.

“It's either brazen or complete stupidity whichever way you look at it.”

Wright told the court: “I was taking advice but I wasn't being given the correct advice. I should have probably gone into it a lot more than I did.”

n What do you think of benefit cheats? How should they be punished? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

DISTRICT judge David Cooper condemned David Wright for his “deplorable cheating of the public purse”.

In imposing a strict curfew on him, he said he had been responsible for “absolute blatant cheating really - brazen is the word”.

“It's ridiculous, absolutely infantile behaviour,” he said.

Following Wright's guilty pleas, anti-fraud minister James Plaskitt said: “Benefit fraud is theft, and we are committed to catching benefit thieves and bringing the toughest penalties against those who commit this crime - no ifs, no buts.

“The public are fed up with benefit thieves stealing money intended for society's most vulnerable. There are no excuses for taking money that isn't yours.”

The Department for Work and Pensions warned others thinking about committing benefit fraud that it would do everything in its powers to uncover their deception.

A spokesman said: “When investigating possible fraud, we can access bank accounts, utility bills and government computer systems to check for inconsistencies.

“If appropriate we can also put them under surveillance.”

The spokeswoman said, in the east of England region people have taken £12million in benefit fraud.

You can tell the DWP about people committing benefit fraud by calling the National Benefit Fraud Hotline on 0800 854 440 or by logging on to www.dwp.gov.uk/benefitthieves

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