South Shields self-employed garden and bin cleaner claimed over £20,000 in four-year benefits scam

A waste worker who was paid over £20,000 in a benefit fraud scam has been spared jail.

The case was heard at Newcastle Crown Court.
The case was heard at Newcastle Crown Court.

Arthur Ferguson was paid £20,598 in housing benefit on the basis he was a self employed garden and bin cleaner, earning a limited income, between February 2013 and November 2017.

But prosecutor Jessica Slaughter told Newcastle Crown Court: "Investigations revealed the defendant received substantial sums of money into his bank account, consistent with him working for recycling companies and him not declaring that income."

The court heard between December 2012 and July 2017, the now 58-year-old was paid £70,000 from two recycling firms.

He was questioned and denied any of the recycling money going into the account was his, as it was paid out to scrap collectors as part of a "verbal deal".

Ferguson, of Cragside, The Lonnen, South Shields, who has a waste carriers licence and has no previous convictions, pleaded guilty to benefit fraud and is paying back the £20,598 at a rate of £50 per month.

Mr Recorder Aitken told Ferguson: "I appreciate, generally, you are not a person who gets convicted."

Ferguson was sentenced to a one-year community order with 200 hours unpaid work.

Jennifer Coxon, defending, said Ferguson still runs a waste management collection business but is struggling financially and will not now claim benefits which he may be entitled to.

Mr Coxon said Ferguson "had not appreciated the seriousness" of the benefit claim mistake.