A man from County Durham who was a police protection officer for Tony Blair has been jailed after he swindled more than £50,000 in benefits to help fund holidays abroad and send his children to private school.
Vaughan Dodds, 45, a former officer with Durham Police, claimed he had been left house bound by his ME, saying he could only manage to walk for five minutes without being in severe discomfort.
As an appointee for his wife Mandy, he also claimed her illness left her highly sensitive to sound, and said the “crackling of the bed sheets or the pillow can not only awaken her but cause pain”.
He even said the sound of toilet tissue being ripped was too much for her to cope with.
Filling out forms to claim for the benefits, he said he had difficulty making main meals for himself and needed help getting out of bed.
But an investigation into the couple found they went on numerous holidays, made payments of almost £35,000 to health and beauty salons, spent thousands on hotels and restaurants and sent their son and a daughter to fee-paying schools.
Secret footage was made of them both working out in the gym and pictures of them on holiday riding a camel and frolicking in a cruise ship cabin.
Graham O’Sullivan, prosecuting, told the trial at Teesside Crown Court: “The prosecution make no bones about it. We say this money was dishonestly obtained.
“We say it was used by Mr Dodds and his wife to fund a comfortable lifestyle - a lifestyle this couple could not otherwise have afforded.”
Mr O’Sullivan told the jury the ex-policeman was left £250,000 in his father’s will in 2007, and his £160,000 house in Spennymoor.
Following the trial Dodds was convicted of nine charges of dishonestly claiming more than £55,000 between April 2005 and December 2009.
Sentencing him to two-and-a-half years in prison, Judge Graham Cook said the case was “made far worse by the fact you were a serving police officer and the public expect more of a serving officer or a former officer because you more than most know the difference between right and wrong”.
Nigel Soppitt, defending, had argued prison would be a “bleak and stark place” for a former officer where he would be left vulnerable.
He described him as a “broken man” and said he was “deeply, deeply sorry” for what he had done.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “Only a small minority of benefit claimants are dishonest, but cases like this show how we are rooting out the unscrupulous minority who are cheating the system and diverting taxpayers’ money from those who really need it.
“We are determined to find those we suspect of abusing the welfare system by following up on tip-offs, undertaking surveillance and working with local councils.”