Pensioner claimed £14k from Stoke-on-Trent City Council while living in Pakistan
CHEATING Mohammed Rafiq swindled £14,700 by fraudulently claiming benefits on his Stoke-on-Trent home – while living in Pakistan.
The 69-year-old pleaded guilty to three counts of failing to notify the authorities about changes to his circumstances.
Between 2006 and 2010 Rafiq spent long periods of time abroad – sometimes up to 18 months – and during those absences his bank account was accessed by his daughter and money was sent to him in Pakistan.
At North Staffordshire Magistrates Court yesterday, prosecutor Paul Kay said: "The amount of money involved is £14,700 and the department is taking steps to recover that by deductions from benefits per week.
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"Mr Rafiq was in receipt of pension credits, disability living allowance, council tax and housing benefit.
"All of these depended on him being resident in the UK but he was in Pakistan for much of that time.
"To his credit when he was interviewed he was entirely frank and admitted he had been absent from the country.
"He apologised for what had happened and said it would not happen again."
The court heard Rafiq, pictured right, suffers with back pain and the warmer climate of Pakistan had alleviated the condition in the past.
The prolonged trips abroad had sometimes been extended because he fell ill and was unable to travel back to his home in Emerson Road, Cobridge.
He has no previous convictions and pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.
Gary Corbett, mitigating, said: "These were completely legitimate claims in the beginning.
"These are the non-dishonest forms of the offence, it was a mistake on his part. He believed he was able to simply leave the country.
"But now he accepts he had the paperwork to consider when making the claims which explained things to him and the onus was on him to comply."
Rafiq was assisted in court by an Urdu interpreter. Magistrates heard he lives alone following a separation with his wife three months ago and is still claiming benefits, but is repaying the debt at a rate of £25 a week. His income before deductions is £830 a month.
He was sentenced to nine weeks in custody, suspended for 12 months, with a supervision requirement.
He must also pay £100 towards prosecution costs at a rate of £5 a week.
Chairman of the bench Christopher Rushton said: "This was a lot of money which was obtained over a prolonged period of time and we considered a custodial sentence. But because of your guilty pleas and co-operation we suspended that."