A FRAUDSTER claimed benefits for almost three years while living abroad, but was caught out after posting pictures on the internet of him enjoying his new life in Canada.
Paul Mabley, a psoriatic arthritis sufferer, was entitled to income support and disability living allowance while living with his mum in Nevinson Avenue, South Shields.
But when he married his Canadian sweetheart Jennifer in 2009 and moved to her homeland, he should have told the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).
However, the 41-year-old kept that move a secret and continued to receive both benefits, raking in £22,468 between September 2009 and April last year that he wasn’t entitled to.
Mabley was investigated after the DWP became aware of pictures of him and his wife on social network sites including Twitter, accompanied by boasts about his new life in Canada.
He was charged with two counts of dishonestly failing to notify the authorities of a change in circumstances but pleaded not guilty at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court, saying that he thought he was still entitled to the cash because he came home for six months every year.
However, after a trial at the court on Monday, he was found guilty of both charges, with the magistrates deciding that he should have known he was not eligible to receive the benefits.
Yesterday, Mabley, now back living with his mum in Nevinson Avenue, returned to the court to be sentenced.
District Judge Helen Cousins gave him a 14-week prison sentence suspended for a year.
Mabley was also put on a four-month electronically-tagged curfew between 8pm and 8am daily.
Judge Cousins said: “My starting point is to give you 12 weeks in custody, because there was a significant period of time with a significant level of loss for the DWP.
“By taking it to trial, you also lost any credit you would have received for a guilty plea.
“On the positive side, you have no previous convictions, this claim wasn’t fraudulent from the start, and you would have been entitled to some benefits for the time you spent in this country.”
Mabley, now receiving the correct benefits, is required to pay back the overpayments made during the time he was living abroad.
He was also ordered to pay £300 costs.
Kevin Smallcombe, defending, told the court that Mabley wants to move to Canada to be with his wife full time, but his conviction could mean that he will not be granted permanent residency.
He said: “There are a number of criteria in Canada to become a resident.
“One of them is not having a criminal record, which he now has.
“He wants to go back to live with his wife, who also has an illness, which prevents her from coming to this country.
“As well as arthritis, he has some mental health problems.”
The court also heard that Mabley posted pictures of him and his wife on the internet and claimed to be running a website called www.oncomingstormmedia.com
“It was said in the trial that he was boasting on Twitter and other websites, including his own, but these were nothing more than boasts.
“He lives a frugal existence and only spent $15 on the web domain.”