A Wearside dad whose attempt to lose more than 20 stone in weight featured on TV has admitted falsely claiming benefits of more than £8,000.
Terry Lee Gardner, 35, was part of ITV’s Weight Loss Ward in 2012 in which he was followed as he attempted reduce his almost 50 stone weight.
The programme followed patients at Sunderland Royal Hospital as doctors tried to address the chronic national obesity crisis.
Gardner was until recently in receipt of the highest level of Disability Living Allowance, claiming he could only walk for three metres before feeling discomfort.
But investigators found through surveillance that he could walk a distance of 1.2 miles in about 40 minutes, with only three brief breaks.
Gardner, a married dad-of-three, was subsequently charged with dishonestly making a false statement to obtain a benefit and dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances, both of which he pleaded guilty to.
Prosecutor Iain Jordan told a hearing at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court: “This is two offences of benefit fraud relating to Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Personal Independence Payment (Pip).
“The total amount of overpayment across the two is £8,034.89 and of that £364 is in relation to the Pip and £7,670 for the DLA.
“Mr Gardner was in receipt of DLA and he described that he had health problems, mobility problems which were down to breaking his ankle and problems with his weight, together with diabetes.
“He said he could only walk three metres before feeling discomfort and he said he would take a minute to walk 40 metres.” Mr Jordan added that surveillance teams were sent to investigate Gardner after information was provided that his health may have improved.
In different observations by investigators he was seen walking 30 yards without any assistance, and also 700 yards to and 900 yards from a football stadium.
He was also seen walking 1.2 miles in a time of about 40 minutes.
“He was 47 stone but managed to lose a significant amount of weight,” said Mr Jordan.
“He learned to drive in 2014 and he held a season ticket for Sunderland AFC.
“He accepted that he had failed to declare the health improvement.
“It’s not a great deal of money, but it is being repaid.”
Neil Hodgson, mitigating, told the hearing: “I’ve been talking to Mr Gardner and his wife at great length today.
“He was not a well child who suffered from an IBS-like condition.
“He had various problems and difficulties.
“He was always heavy at 20 stone but broke his leg very badly and that laid him up for many, many months.
“At one point he was 50 stones, down to 47.
“The claims he made were initially genuine and he did have DLA at the higher rate.
“He now receives the lower rate and we are where we are with the situation.”
Sentencing Gardner, of Longfellow Street, Houghton, district judge Roger Elsey fined him £600 and also ordered him to pay a £60 surcharge and £50 in costs.
Mr Elsey said: “You have lost your good character.
“You now have a serious conviction for the offence of dishonesty.”
In Weight Loss Ward, programme makers focused on Sunderland Royal after it become host to one of the UK’s first dedicated wards to help clinically-obese patients.
At the time Terry, who had been housebound for a year prior to the documentary, was one of the heaviest patients to be treated at the ward.
Deemed too fat to undergo safe gastric band surgery, he had a gastric balloon fitted, in which a temporary restriction is placed inside the stomach, which reduces food intake.
Terry said his weight began to increase after he married, then in 2007 he broke his leg which affected his mobility.
That, coupled with a diet of kebabs, pizzas and other unhealthy foods, meant his weight spiralled out of control.