Man jailed for claiming £44k in benefits whilst running market stalls in Accrington and Burnley

Lancashire Telegraph: Matloob Hussain Shah Matloob Hussain Shah

A £44,500 disability benefits cheat who claimed he could barely stand was actually working long hours running two market stalls.

Matloob Hussain Shah, 61, is now starting a four-month jail sentence after an investigation into the stalls he ran at Burnley and Accrington markets.

During a five-year Disability Living Allowance scam he declared he got very breathless due to a heart condition, could walk only about 45 to 50 metres before he felt severe discomfort, and would sometimes use a walking stick.

But, Burnley Crown Court was told, three months of surveillance by the Department for Work and Pensions filmed him working at Burnley and Accrington Markets.

He was found to be standing on the stalls for a long time, apparently without discomfort and without any aids.

He was also observed and filmed arriving at his home on foot, carrying bags, walking freely and unaided and also loading and unloading bags and boxes from a vehicle to and from the stalls and to and from his home.

Shah, of Thursby Road, Burnley, had admitted three counts of dishonestly failing to promptly notify a change in circumstances and was jailed for four months.

Frances Hertzog, prosecuting for the DWP, said it was not a fraud from the outset.

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From 2000 Shah claimed Disability Living Allowance after he declared his disabilities to be due to heart problems, after five heart attacks.

He stated he got very breathless working outdoors and also got cramping pain in his chest and left arm.

Shah said the circulation in his legs was poor, walking caused numbness, he could walk about 45 to 50 metres before he felt severe discomfort and sometimes used a stick.

Miss Hertzog said the DWP carried out surveillance on the defendant between May 22 and September 1, 2010, and evidence showed his capabilities were not those he had described on his claim form.

He was observed and filmed working at the two markets loading and unloading bags and boxes.

The defendant had rented a stall at Burnley Market from July 2005 and also traded at Accrington Market from 2007.

The prosecutor said as a result of failing to declare his change in circumstances, Shah had been overpaid a total £44,539.

He told the court that he had not informed the DWP his ability to cope with his condition had improved and that he had been working.

He was now repaying the debt at £17.70 a week.

Afzal Anwar, for Shah, said he clearly had a long medical history. He had had heart bypass surgery, was an asthmatic, suffered back pain and even after 2005 he had been in hospital and had been to see his GP over his health issues.

Mr Anwar said: “He should have reported the changes in his health to the relevant authorities , but he failed to do so, for which he is remorseful.

“He did attend regularly on his market stalls, although his son was mostly there with him, to help him.

“He's not working anymore, although he still accepts that sometimes he does go and assist his son, to pass time, on these stalls, voluntarily. The son has taken them over and that's his business, rather than his father's.”

Sentencing, Judge Jonathan Gibson said: “You were routinely dishonest in what you did because you must have known you weren't entitled to these benefits.

“Offending of this kind, of course, is not a victimless crime as ordinary members of the public, who work hard and pay their taxes, are rightly outraged when people claim benefits to which they are not entitled.

“I have decided the jail sentence can't be suspended. The offending is too serious and it wouldn't be right so to do."

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