Padiham benefits cheat had £170,000 in bank

A benefits cheat from Padiham who obtained almost £19,000 while he had more than £170,000 in the bank, has been given a suspended jail term.

Burnley Crown Court heard how pensioner David Harry Hardacre, now 66, carried out the scam over almost four years with his claim fraudulent from the start. Hardacre was said to have claimed he had savings of just under £7,000 and kept quiet about how much cash he really had.

He claimed at an earlier hearing he had been employment since leaving school and he felt that the state had not supported him when he needed it. He had been signed off sick by a number of doctors, but the Department for Work and Pensions had deemed him fit for work

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Hardacre, of Palmerston Street, Padiham, had admitted two counts of dishonestly failing to disclose information to make a gain – that he had savings in excess of the prescribed limits. One count involves council tax benefit from Burnley Borough Council, between November 30th, 2009 and March 31st, 2013 and the other is pension credit from the DWP, between November 30th, 2009 and September 22nd, 2013.

He had been committed for sentence to the crown court by Burnley magistrates. Recorder Mark Ainsworth, who said Hardacre had over 10 times the prescribed savings limit of £16,000, gave him four months in prison, suspended for a year. The defendant will now face a proceeds of crime hearing on October 2nd.

Natalia Cornwall (prosecuting) said Hardacre made a call to claim pension credit but then handed the phone over to his wife to give information on his behalf, although he was present at the time.

He later signed a declaration form, confirming he had no assets other than £6,960, which had earlier been stated on the phone. But, it turned out he and his wife had savings of £170,000 in 15 bank accounts.

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The defendant received an overpayment of £18,829. He was interviewed under caution and made full admissions.

Rachel Cleary (defending) had earlier told the lower court the proceedings had caused him significant stress. She told the hearing the defendant put in a claim for sickness benefit and had been signed off by a number of doctors.

He then had a medical assessment and the DWP deemed him fit for work. The solicitor continued: “He felt some sense of anguish. He was a hard-working individual. He had managed to save up a large amount through modest living and he felt when he needed it, the state wasn’t there to support him.”

Mrs Cleary had said what Hardacre had done was more “an act of omission” and when money was coming into to his bank account, he “simply buried his head in the sand”.

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She had continued: “He is paying the money back. He has offered to pay it in one lump sum, but the DWP has insisted it is deducted from his state pension.

He says he would rather pay it back. It’s added stress he can do without.”