Pensioner claimed benefits despite £200,000 windfall, court told (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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Pensioner claimed benefits despite £200,000 windfall, court told
A PENSIONER being investigated as a benefits cheat had more than £200,000 going into his bank accounts in just over a year.
Details of Robert Bruce's financial life - described as "either chaotic or cunning" - emerged during a court hearing into the fraud.
His barrister said the 78-year-old was so disorganised he had his home repossessed - despite it having more than £80,000 equity.
White-haired Bruce then lived rough in a car before being put up in a place for the homeless in Northallerton, North Yorkshire.
The pensioner later moved into a one-bedroomed apartment in Appleton Wiske, near Northallerton, for which he claimed benefits.
Prosecutor Sam Faulks told Teesside Crown Court that he continued to collect housing and council tax relief despite two windfalls.
First, Bruce pocketed £83,000 from the sale of his repossessed home, then a £120,000-plus inheritance from a farm sale.
When investigators caught up with him, he claimed he had just 98p left, and had spent the rest of his colossal cash pile on his flat.
Mr Faulks said: "Quite how £209,000 can be spent over the course of November 2010 to April 2012 is something of a mystery.
"It is rather difficult to envisage how all of those home improvements can be made in a one-bedroom apartment."
Rod Hunt, mitigating, pointed to a probation pre-sentence report which suggests Bruce may have given away lots of his wealth.
"For him to get himself into a position where his house is repossessed yet there is equity in it, shows he is either cunning or chaotic.
"He is either gullible, on one view, giving money away to a third party, mentioned in the report, or otherwise something else.
"During this time he seems to have been sleeping in a car and now absolutely depends on a neighbour who had put him up."
Bruce, formerly of Smith Green, Appleton Wiske, admitted one charge of failing to notify of a change of circumstances.
The court heard how he pocketed almost £5,000 in benefits after not telling North Yorkshire County Council about his windfalls.
He was given 18 months of probation supervision, but faces another hearing in the New Year when his finances will be closely examined.
If it is discovered he has hidden the money he came into, the authorities will look to seize it under Proceeds of Crime Act legislation.
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