Benefits cheat had inherited £90,000

Burnley Magistrates' Court
Burnley Magistrates' Court

A benefits cheat ex-British Telecom worker got more than £33,000 he wasn't entitled to after he inherited almost £90,000, a court heard.

Neil Tomlinson (57) didn't declare the money left to him by his parents to the authorities after, he claimed, he heard through the grapevine "it doesn't count."

Tomlinson, who has now paid the cash back, and more besides, was spared immediate jail. Burnley magistrates had been told he had been receiving employment and support allowance and housing and council tax benefits during the three-and-a-half year scam.

He was given 20 weeks in jail, suspended for a year, with £85 costs and an £80 victim surcharge.

The defendant, of Edgworth Grove, Burnley, admitted dishonestly failing to disclose to the Department for Work and Pensions that he possessed capital above the prescribed limit and dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances to Burnley Borough Council, between September 2012 and May 2016.

Prosecutor Miss Parveen Akhtar said Tomlinson was overpaid £33,066.18. He was in receipt of benefits on the basis he was single, unfit to work and had savings of less than £16,000.

Evidence came to light that he inherited £87,000 in 2012. He was interviewed, admitted he failed to declare the money and said it was simply an oversight on his part. The defendant had no previous convictions.

Mr Daniel Frazer (defending) said Tomlinson worked for 30 years, 28 of them with British Telecom. He went to work overseas when he was made redundant. On his return eight or nine years ago, the defendant suffered a heart attack and was then dependent on the state. He also had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and was on medication.

Mr Frazer told the hearing that about five years ago Tomlinson's parents died and he inherited £87,000.

The solicitor added: "He didn't declare that. He can't give any explanation as to the reason why. When he spoke to several people, they said an inheritance doesn't count. It was just something he heard through the grapevine."

Mr Frazer said the defendant had paid back "every penny" and more. He had handed over about £36,000. His inheritance was now at about £16,000.

The solicitor added: "He will never ever work again. He's too ill to do that. He regrets what he did. He has done all he can to put right what he did wrong."