Man narrowly avoids jail for £17,000 benefit fraud

First published in News Darlington and Stockton Times: Photograph of the Author by , Assistant News Editor

A MARRIED chef who claimed to be single and unemployed pocketed more than £17,000 in hand-outs he should not have got.

William McLuckie said he was unfit to work because of depression and picked up £7,894 in Incapacity Benefit, a court heard.

He also received an overpayment of £9,279 in Council Tax relief and Housing Benefit from Redcar and Cleveland Council.

McLuckie dodged prison today (Friday, August 29) after a judge heard he was now working full-time and paying back the money.

Julian Gaskin, mitigating, told Teesside Crown Court that the 51-year-old was in and out of jobs because of his illness.

He said it was difficult to say exactly how many weeks he worked during the two years, but it was thought to have been 22.

He was a chef at hotels in Reeth and Bainbridge, both near Richmond, North Yorkshire, and in Cockermouth, Cumbria.

Investigators found that his then girlfriend - now his wife - had been staying at McLuckie's home when he claimed he lived alone.

Photographs from Facebook showed them together in Thailand, said prosecutor Kieran Rainey, as well as at family functions.

When he was asked if they were married, McLuckie told the fraud-busters: "It's got nothing to do with you."

McLuckie admitted they had wed when a copy of their marriage certificate was produced during one interview in 2012.

Mr Gaskin told the court: "When he was working, he was paying tax and National Insurance, and there is no suggestion he was trying to avoid those liabilities.

"There are various periods where he has tried to kid himself that he could work, but he has not been able . . . he was not working throughout this time."

McLuckie, of Newcomen Grove, Redcar, admitted four charges of failing to notify the authorities of a change in his circumstances.

He was given a four-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and was told by Judge Tony Briggs: "It was a close run thing."

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