Pay back £19,685 or spend a year in jail, Burnley benefit cheat is told

Burnley and Pendle Citizen: Matloob Hussain Shah Matloob Hussain Shah

A benefits cheat said to have made £50,000 from crime has been ordered to pay back almost £20,000 to the public purse by July.

Matloob Hussain Shah, 62, was last year locked up for four months after he had claimed he could barely stand, but was actually working long hours running two market stalls in Burnley and Accrington.

Burnley Crown Court had heard how Shah had been caught out after three months of surveillance by the Department for Work and Pensions, who filmed him at work. During a five- year Disability Living Allowance scam, he had declared he got very breathless due to a heart condition, could only walk about 45 to 50 metres before he felt severe discomfort and would sometimes use a walking stick.

But, he had been found to be standing on the stalls for a long time, apparently without discomfort and without any aids. Shah was also observed and filmed arriving at his home on foot, carrying bags,walking freely and unaided and also loading and unloading bags and boxes from a vehicle to and from the stalls and to and from his home.

Shah, of Thursby Road, Burnley, had admitted three counts of dishonestly failing to promptly notify a change in circumstances and had been jailed. He has now faced a proceeds of crime hearing, after more investigations by the DWP.

The latest hearing was told he had benefited to the tune of £50,388. 27 and the realisable amount of money was £19,685.50. He was ordered by a judge to pay the sum within six months, or end up behind bars again, for a year.

The sentencing hearing last April had been told by the DWP how Shah's benefits claim was not a fraud from the outset. He had claimed DLA from 2000, after declaring he had had five heart attacks. He had stated he got breathless working outdoors, got cramping pain in his chest and arm and could only walk 45 to 50 metres without severe discomfort. The DWP carried out the surveillance between May 22 and September 1 2010 and evidence showed his capabilities were not those he had described on his claim form. Shah had been overpaid £44,539 as a result of his failing to declare his change in circumstances. At the hearing, Shah was said to have started repaying the debt at £17.70 a week.

His barrister Afzal Anwar had told the sentencing court :" He's not working anymore, although he still accepts that sometimes he does go and assist his son, to pass time, on these stalls, voluntarily. The son has taken them over and that's his business, rather than his father's."

Sentencing, Judge Jonathan Gibson had told Shah :" Offending of this kind, of course, is not a victimless crime as ordinary members of the public who work hard and pay their taxes, are rightly outraged when people claim benefits to which they are not entitled."

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