Busted! Benefits cheat who earned £210,000 in handouts over seven years while claiming he was too sick to work is caught on camera lugging huge sacks of wood
Mark Barnes, 60, from Bacup, Lancashire, received an annual £30,000 in benefits over a seven-year period after claiming he was unable to work due to a debilitating illness.
But, after an anonymous tip-off, investigators found Barnes was secretly working as a woodcutter, while still receiving income support, council tax benefit and employment support allowance.
This is the moment a benefits cheat who pocketed £210,000 in state handouts by claiming he was too sick to work for seven years was caught lugging firewood weighing more than seven stone
Mark Barnes, 60, from Bacup, Lancashire, received nearly £30,000 per year each year after claiming he was unable to work due to a debilitating illness
Officers for the Department for Work and Pensioners set up a camera at his work and covertly filmed Barnes chopping up the wood, before lugging it off into a container.
The wood, which he then sold on to a local garden centre, was estimated to weigh more than seven-and-a-half stone, according to the Daily Mirror.
Burnley Crown Court heard how Barnes sold on the kindling, making £70 cash per week.
He told benefits officials that he thought he was entitled to earn the money while still claiming the handouts, the court heard.
Barnes admitted two charges of dishonestly failing to promptly notify a change in circumstances.
He also admitted making a false representation for job seekers' allowance to Rossendale Council in October 2013.
After an anonymous tip-off, investigators from the Department for Work and Pensions found Barnes was secretly working as a woodcutter
Prosecutor Claire Thomas said Barnes had claimed benefits since February 2000 for himself and two children.
After claiming he could not work through illness, he made declarations to the DWP when his son started work, but never told the department he too was working.
There was no claim for compensation as the department plans to start civil proceedings to recover the money, the court heard.
Officers for the Department for Work and Pensioners then recorded him chopping up wood, before lugging sacks of it into a container, ready to be sold on
Barnes admitted two charges of dishonestly failing to promptly notify a change in circumstances, initially for income support and later employment support allowance, and council tax benefit
Richard Dawson, defending, said: 'It is own foolishness that has placed him in the position that he now finds himself. If he explained his situation then he might well have been entitled to certain benefits.'
He was given a 12-month community order and 200 hours unpaid work after admitting to failing to notify the authorities about his job.
Judge Andrew Long said: 'I am not unsympathetic to your situation. You are a man of previous good character and you showed some nous in getting yourself some work.
'But it was dishonest in that you didn't notify the department. It may well be if you had been honest then you would have received benefits of some sort or other.'