Garage mechanic swindled £1,000 in benefits

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A BENEFIT cheat claimed more than £1,000 while working in a South Tyneside garage.

Gary Lewis was claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance and housing and council tax benefit between September and December last year.

The 44-year-old did not tell the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) or South Tyneside Council that he had started working at Halfords in South Shields, but investigators realised that he was scamming the system.

Lewis, of Stirling Avenue, Scotch Estate, Jarrow, pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to notify the authorities of a change in circumstance that would affect benefits at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court.

Keith Laidlaw, prosecuting, told the court that Lewis was claiming legitimately from April, but didn’t let the DWP or council know that he started work just three months later.

He said: “The defendant was claiming benefits during a period he was working.

“When he first submitted his claim, he signed a form to say he promptly would tell the council and DWP of any changes that would affect his claim.

“He also signed on every fortnight, at which time he signed to say he had not been working.” Mr Laidlaw told the court that Lewis had claimed £825 of Jobseekers’ Allowance that he should not have and £178 of council tax and housing benefit.

He added: “He was interviewed about the false claims and accepted he had been working.

“He said he needed the money and couldn’t live on benefits alone during that period.”

The court heard that Lewis, a mechanic, has been given a conditional discharge for a similar offence previously.

Magistrates gave Lewis a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered him to pay a £15 victim surcharge.

He is already paying the cash back to the DWP and council in monthly instalments.

Twitter: @ShieldsGazCrime