Jail for Burnley man (61) who claimed £44,500 while working on market stall

Burnley Crown Court.
Burnley Crown Court.

A BENEFITS cheat who received £44,500 Disability Living Allowance after claiming he had trouble walking, was running two market stalls during a five-year scam, a court heard.

Matloob Hussain Shah (61) had declared he got very breathless due to a heart condition, could walk only 45m before he felt severe discomfort and would sometimes use a walking stick.

But, Burnley Crown Court was told, three months of surveillance by the Department for Work and Pensions in 2010 filmed him working at Burnley and Accrington Markets, standing on the stalls for a long time, without discomfort or with any aids. He was also filmed arriving home on foot, carrying bags, walking unaided, and also loading and unloading bags and boxes from a vehicle.

In an interview with the DWP, Shah claimed he only earned £10 to £20 a day. But it was his business and he had not told the department or his local authority, from which he was getting Council Tax Credits. He said his ability to cope with his condition had improved and he had been working.

Shah, of Thursby Road, Burnley, admitted three counts of dishonestly failing to promptly notify a change in circumstances. The defendant, who has a conviction for using a document with intent to deceive, was jailed for four months.

Frances Hertzog (prosecuting for the DWP) said it was not fraud from the outset. From December 2000 to February 2011, Shah claimed Disability Living Allowance at the higher rate mobility component and lower rate care component as he had severe restriction in his mobility and needed help with personal care. From May 1994 to January 2011, he had also claimed Incapacity Benefit, on the grounds he was unfit for work.

When he had made his claim for DLA, the defendant declared his disabilities were due to heart problems, after five heart attacks.

Miss Hertzog said the DWP carried out surveillance on the defendant between May and September 2010, and evidence showed his capabilities were not like those described on his DLA claim form. The defendant had rented a stall at Burnley Market from July 2005 and traded at Accrington Market from 2007.

The prosecutor said, as a result of failing to declare his change in circumstances, Shah had been overpaid £44,539.

Miss Hertzog said Shah was interviewed in October 2010 and maintained his medical condition was the same, if not worse, but conceded his breathing had improved slightly since April 2010, due to new medication. He was shown evidence of his market work and asked the interview be suspended for him to get legal advice.

He was questioned again in November 2010 and admitted his ability to cope with his condition had improved. Miss Hertzog added the defendant had repaid £1,740 and had an arrangement to pay £17.70 a week.

Afzal Anwar (defending) said Shah had a long medical history. He had had heart bypass surgery, was asthmatic, suffered back pain and, even after 2005, had been in hospital and had seen his GP. “He should have reported the changes in his health to the authorities, but he failed to do so, for which he is remorseful,” he said.

“He did attend regularly on his market stalls, although his son was mostly there with him, to help. He was getting bored at home. He did only earn £20 a day.”

The barrister said Shah, who was married with a mortgage, now received pension credit. Mr Anwar continued: “He’s not working anymore, although he still accepts that sometimes he does assist his son, to pass time on these stalls, voluntarily. The son has taken them over and that’s his business, rather than his father’s.”

Sentencing, Judge Jonathan Gibson told the defendant: “You were routinely dishonest in what you did as you must have known you weren’t entitled to these benefits.”

The judge continued: “Offending of this kind, of course, is not a victimless crime as ordinary members of the public, who work hard and pay their taxes, are rightly outraged when people claim benefits to which they are not entitled.”