Leeds £48,000 benefit cheat escapes jail

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A benefits cheat who swindled £48,000 has escaped immediate jail because he is the main carer for his blind wife.

John Starr, 59, of Beech Crescent, Gipton, falsely claimed £48,574 over eight years.

He lied on a series of claim forms relating to incapacity benefit, income support and housing and council tax benefits.

Leeds Crown Court heard Starr was suffering from deep vein thrombosis and diabetes and was off sick from his job as a juke box assembler for 10 months from May 2001.

But he returned to work the following year and continued to claim incapacity benefit until July 2010.

Prosecutor, Laura Addy, said in June 2006 Starr started claiming income support and in May 2007 he started claiming housing and council tax benefits after falsely claiming he wasn’t in work.

When he was interviewed by Police last August Starr told officers: “It was necessary with my wife being ill, it all got on top of me and five years ago it got worse because she had a stroke.

“It’s stupid, I’ve don it, I admit it, I can’t deny it. I felt so guilty, it’s no excuse though.”

Starr admitted three charges of falsely claiming benefits.

His lawyer Robin Frieze said Mr Starr’s wife had suffered a stroke and is now registered blind and he is her registered carer.

The court heard she uses a guide dog.

Judge Kerry Macgill handed Starr a 12 month prison sentence suspended for two years and ordered him to do 200 hours unpaid work for the community.

Judge Macgill told him: “Your wife regrettably has had a stroke and it seems the early onset of a form of dementure. She has lost her sight.

“At night and at weekends you are her permanent carer. It’s that and only that that has saved you from prison today.”

The court heard Starr’s employer is standing by him.

Judge Macgill added: “It’s very sad to see a man of your age with no convictions in the dock. Some might think I have been soft, I don’t think I have.”

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