Court defers sentence on benefit cheat to allow cheque to clear
A BENEFIT cheat who falsely claimed almost £25,000 could be sent to jail, despite finally making attempts to repay the money.
Pensioner Charles Wright, of Larch Cottage, Monument Park, Strontian, admitted at Fort William Sheriff Court to giving false information to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in March 2008.
The 73-year- old claimed he had only £4,000 of savings and owned no other properties. This allowed him to fraudulently claim benefits of £24,340.52 between March 2008 and June 2012. It later transpired the businessman owned multiple properties in Fort William.
He also had capital which had not been disclosed in the application for pension credit, namely a bank account holding more than £9,000 and a further bank account which had in excess of £16,000.
In March of 2016, Mr Wright, who has been described as having a cavalier approach to his finances, was given three months to sell a house to cover the costs. At that time the court heard Wright would sell a semi- detached house at Caol which he had previously gifted to his daughter.
Mr Wright appeared in Fort William Sheriff Court on Tuesday where defence lawyer Hamish Melrose explained to Sheriff Eric Brown that the case was one with quite a history.
He then confirmed £6,000 had already been repaid and revealed Mr Wright had brought a cheque for just over £16,000 to make up the balance.
Mr Melrose asked for sentence to be deferred for a short period of time to ensure the sum had been paid to the DWP and for the court to agree on punishment thereafter.
Sheriff Brown said: ‘I defer for four weeks until July 19 to allow the cheque to clear in restitution.’
The sheriff also added that only on confirmation of the repayment would an appropriate decision be made with regard to sentencing.
Mr Wright initially pleaded not guilty to the charges before changing his plea in June 2015. He has been warned a jail sentence will not be ruled out.
Sheriff Richard Davidson, who presided over the case at a previous hearing, said last year: ‘If you hadn’t abused the system you would not have received this money. There is no other word to describe this than fraud. I can’t rule out imprisonment.’