A MAN has been jailed after pocketing almost £76,000 in a benefit fraud stretching 13 years.
Colin Thompson began claiming incapacity benefit in March 1994 for genuine reasons, but later began working without telling the Department for Work and Pensions.
The 58-year-old went on to take up jobs with window and kitchen companies, collecting salaries of more than £10,000 and £12,000 while continuing to sign documents stating his circumstances had not changed.
His actions led to him being overpaid by £75,968 from May 1996 to August 2009.
Durham Crown Court heard how in the same year he started claiming, he began working for therapeutic reasons, but later began real employment which caused the offences.
Thompson, of Jacques Terrace, Chester-le-Street, pleaded guilty to five counts of false claims of incapacity benefit.
Michael Graham, prosecuting, said: “He began working but failed to disclose this to the authorities he was doing, so subsequently received incapacity for the next 13 years.
“He was employed from 1996 and he worked for at least seven separate companies.
“It covers a considerable period of time.”
Ian Hudson, mitigating, said depression had been the “catalyst” for the offending and explained Thompson had tried to kill himself and spent several weeks in hospital.
He said: “This was not to support an extravagant lifestyle.
“He’s lost his job today as a result of a custodial sentence and will also lose the tenancy on his flat.
“He made admissions in interview and he says ‘I admit my wrongdoing. I hold my hands up’.”
Jailing him for eight months, Judge Christopher Prince said: “You took money from the public purse and it is important for you and others to realise it is a simple system that operates in this country.
“People pay tax and that tax is put to public good, in part to support those who are not fortunate to have employment.”
No compensation was ordered by the court.