Claimant had homes in resort and Turkey

Blackpool Magistrates' Court
Blackpool Magistrates' Court

A benefits cheat illegally claimed thousands of pounds when he failed to reveal he owned property abroad and at home.

Howard Smith owned a holiday apartment in Palm Tree Village, Altinkum, Turkey, and a house in Sutherland View, Blackpool, which he rented out.

He failed to tell Blackpool Council or the Department of Work and Pensions about his properties and claimed £5,394 he was not entitled to out of the public purse.

Smith, a 60-year-old former British Steel worker, of Victory Road, Blackpool, pleaded guilty to two offences of dishonestly making a false statement to claim benefits.

Kerry Grieve, prosecuting, said Smith made statements to the authorities to claim Employment Support Allowance and housing benefit in March 2010 and August 2013.

The claims were false from the start, the court was told.

Smith claimed he was sick and unable to work, he had no other income and did not own property in the UK or abroad. He did not disclose he had an apartment in Turkey and a house in Blackpool.

When interviewed by benefit fraud investigators, Smith said the claim forms had been completed for him over the phone by someone at the Citizens Advice Bureau.

He maintained he had mentioned the apartment in Turkey and said he believed the council would know he rented property out as his tenant claimed housing benefit.

In a report to the court, probation officer Lesley Whittaker, said Smith had a number of physical ailments and had suffered from depression for 25 years.

He said he had difficulty understanding and filling in forms so he had someone else complete the benefit claims. He was adamant he did not deliberately deceive the authorities.

Brett Gerrity, defending, said his client, who had no previous convictions, was embarrassed about appearing in court.

Smith felt something had gone monumentally wrong between him and the person who filled in forms for him.

Smith was doing his utmost to repay what he owed.

He had also put his Turkish apartment and his mortgaged home in Victory Road up for sale to raise funds to pay off the balance of what he owed.

Smith was sentenced to an eight-week curfew from 9pm to 6am and ordered to pay £85 costs with £60 victims’ surcharge by Blackpool magistrates.