A MILKMAN who fleeced the system of an incredible £75,000 in fraudulent benefits has been spared instant jail.
Shorn Smith raked in sickness benefit and also housing and council tax benefits for eight years while he was working his round.
A judge said the public had “complete contempt” for benefit fraudsters like him after he admitted nine fraud charges at court.
Durham Crown Court heard how the 49-year-old’s claim began legitimately when he suffered a prolapsed disc while working as a miner in 1993 and started getting sickness benefit.
But by 2003 Smith was working as a milkman while still receiving benefits which continued to be paid to him for the next eight years.
Department of Work and Pension’s officials launched an investigation into Smith’s claim after receiving a tip-off in 2011 that Smith was operating a milk round and had received money from his late father’s estate.
Prosecutor Mark Styles during that time Smith received £75,000 in overpayment of incapacity benefit plus council tax and housing benefits.
But the court also heard he would have been entitled to £31,000 in tax credits if he had declared he was working.
Smith, of Cardiff Street, Easington Colliery, pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to notify of a change in his circumstances affecting his entitlement to benefit.
He also admitted six charges of producing or furnishing false documents and one offence of making a false statement to obtain benefit.
Smith’s barrister Chris Morrison, mitigating, reminded the court that the claim was not fraudulent to begin with.
He said money was tight when he was asked to help out with a milk round in 2001.
Smith was later offered the business for sale and he borrowed £2,000 from his father to set it up and run it with his son.
Mr Morrison said the milk round business was not making a lot of money because of competition from the supermarkets and Smith was not living an extravagant lifestyle because of the fraud.
Judge Christopher Prince said: “The public, understandably, has complete contempt for people such as you.”
Smith was given three months’ prison suspended for 12 months.
He was also ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work and must pay back the money he pocketed by £1,000 a year.
He must also pay £1,472 towards the prosecution costs.
Anyone with information on benefit fraud cancontact the National Benefit Fraud Hotline on 0800 854440.