A “COMPULSIVE liar” who claimed up to £44,500 of taxpayers’ money saying she could barely walk was busted when she was filmed running around playing crown green bowls.
Rebecca Peach from Willenhall, West Mids, was in a much better state than she claimed when officers from the Department for Work and Pensions secretly filmed the supposedly disabled woman.
Peach had said she needed crutches to walk, but was recorded jogging up and down steps at her local bowling green, Amery Unionist Bowling Club in Willenhall.
In the footage, the fraudster is even seen bending down to deliver her bowl before gleefully punching the air and running across the bowling green with a tape measure — all without showing any signs of discomfort.
The 49-year-old appeared at Wolverhampton Crown Court last Thursday after confessing to failing to tell the DWP her condition had improved.
Peach also admitted this failure was done with the intention of making gains for herself.
At the hearing, Jamie Scott, prosecuting, said the payments were not illegal from the start but up to £44,500 may have been obtained fraudulently.
Mr Scott maintained the bogus benefit payouts ran from March 9, 2011 to November 29, 2017, initially as Disability Living Allowance until it was changed to Personal Independence Living Allowance in February 2016.
You have had the good sense to admit your responsibility for defrauding the public purse, and that is a serious crime.
Judge James Burbidge QC
Charles Crinion, defending, argued the fraud did not begin until July 23, 2012 and said the defendant’s depression had recently got worse.
The court also heard Peach had no previous convictions and had claimed at the start of the process that she was in severe pain while walking, needed two crutches because her legs gave way without warning, never went out alone and needed help dressing herself.
She alleged that she was regularly forced to stop, needed help to cook and had pain in her legs, knees and back.
But meanwhile, she was apparently playing bowls up to four days a week and represented teams in several local leagues in Wolverhampton and South Staffordshire.
Prosecutors will now decide whether the fact the payments were not fraudulent from the start should make a difference to the sentence before Peach, who was bailed, returns to court for sentencing in April.
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Warning she may be jailed, Judge James Burbidge QC said to the defendant: “You have had the good sense to admit your responsibility for defrauding the public purse, and that is a serious crime.”
In a statement, the DWP said: “Only a small minority of benefit claimants are dishonest, but cases like this show how we are catching those who cheat the system and divert taxpayers’ money from the people who need it.
“We are determined to catch those we suspect of fraudulently claiming benefits by following up on tip-offs, undertaking surveillance and working with local councils.”
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