AN author from South Tyneside has been spared jail after taking £40,000 from taxpayers in fraudulent support claims.
David Lucas, who is partially sighted, claimed the cash through a Government-run scheme – Access to Work – which is aimed at making it easier for disabled people to work.
Lucas, 54, claimed he was a self-employed visual impairment consultant working for charities like Guide Dogs for the Blind and that his wife was his support worker.
But Newcastle Crown Court heard many of the companies and charities he claimed to have been employed by had no record of such work – and his wife was actually at her National Health Service job on many of the days he claimed she was acting as his support.
Lucas, of North View, Jarrow, pleaded guilty to obtaining money by deception and was given a suspended prison sentence.
The court heard Access to Work is intended to meet the costs of support workers when they accompany those with a disability to their places of work.
Lucas collected the cash despite the organisations he claimed to have been working for knowing nothing about him and on days when his wife was at work.
Andrew Walker, prosecuting, told the court: “There were numerous examples of days he had claimed she was assisting him but she was, in fact, at work with the NHS.
“Mr Lucas claimed he was a visual impairment consultant, employed by various companies in that capacity.
“Without that work, nothing would justify the Access to Work support. Inquiries with various companies he claimed to have been working with for years revealed he had not been employed by them at all.”
Lucas, who appeared in the dock with his guide dog, claimed to have been paid up to £500 per day working for Guide Dogs for the Blind and other firms and said his wife was needed to assist him with matters such as setting up his presentation equipment.
Mr Walker said Guide Dogs for the Blind had a record of him only as a casual volunteer worker, who had never been paid.
The court heard that, between August 2006 and March 2011, Lucas claimed £43,199 in support worker allowance. He admitted 90 per cent of his claims were fraudulent, a total figure of £41,039.
Lewis Kerr, defending, said Lucas is not completely without sight and handed in books written by him to the judge.
Mr Recorder Prosser sentenced Lucas to eight months behind bars, suspended for 18 months, with 100 hours’ unpaid work.
The judge told him: “You were defrauding the public purse on a regular basis. It is a very significant sum of money.
“Your offence is not victimless. If you take money to which you are not entitled, those who are entitled to the money cannot have it.”
The judge said Lucas’ previous good character and the fact there is a “good chance” he will not reoffend, meant the jail term could be suspended.
But he warned: “If you reoffend with any form of dishonesty while this sentence is operational, you will have to serve the sentence.
“The fact you are visually impaired will not prevent you from going to prison.”