A MAN claimed more than £7,600 in disability benefits while living in Cyprus and working as an estate agent.

Stephen Ward emigrated to the holiday destination of Deryneia without informing the Department of Work and Pensions.

He lived in the resort for three years with his wife and two children but should not have been eligible for the payments while living outside the UK.

Burnley Magistrates Court heard he had suffered a serious motorcycle accident in his early 20s which had damaged his ligaments.

While living in Britain he had qualified for the welfare support payments as he could not walk more than five-metres in a minute.

But the payments should have ceased as soon as he set up home on the island, the court heard.

The 49-year-old, who works in Blackburn and lives in Nelson, pleaded guilty to committing fraud by dishonourably failing to disclose information that he was no longer resident in the UK.

The court heard Ward of Delph Mount, was arrested last year on his first day of work at Your Move estate agents in King William Street, after a tip-off from a resident.

Alex Mann, prosecuting, said: “The evidence came to light through intelligence.

“The offence is that he was out of the country, and that he was living and working in Cyprus.”

The prosecutor said Ward emigrated to the popular holiday destination in the Famagusta district in March 2007 not returning until April 2010, without informing the Department of Work and Pensions.

Nick Cassidy, defending, said his client initially went to the resort to visit friends, not intending to stay long-term.

The solicitor said: “He later moved out there with his family, and continued to accept the payments into his bank account.”

Mr Cassidy said: “He was working as an estate agent in Cyprus.”

The court heard Ward worked for several estate agents in the country, buying and selling properties, including Burke Brothers Moving Group and Buy and Sell.

In reference to the defendant’s disability, Mr Cassidy said: “Mr Ward had a motorbike accident in his early 20s which damaged his ligaments and gave him a subsequent infection.

“Since then, he has experienced the sensation of his femur rubbing against his tibia, giving him a chronic condition causing him pain.

“He made a long-term claim for disability living allowance, but the rules are now much more strict in terms of reporting change in conditions.”

In mitigation, Mr Cassidy said Your Move, Ward’s current employer, had assured him they would allow him to continue working for them after being sentenced.

The offences were all committed before he began work at Your Move.

Magistrates ordered Ward to pay back the full amount of £7,633, at £20 per week, £85 court costs and a £60 victim surcharge.

He must also adhere to a curfew to remain at home between the hours of 7pm and 7am, and wear an electronic monitoring tag.

Derek Taylor, chairman of the bench, allowed Ward to be free of the curfew for June 4 and 5, as he is attending a 50th birthday celebration.

Summing up, Mr Taylor said: “Aggravating factors are that this was over a three-year period.

“Mitigating, there is the fact that you did not intend to stay for so long.

“But you should have informed somebody as time went on.

“So we will give you a high level community order to punish you, and to protect the public.”