Tip-off led to jail for £13,000 claimant fraudster

PUBLISHED: 17:08 19 August 2008 | UPDATED: 13:31 06 May 2010

A HOTLINE tip-off led to a man who fraudulently claimed more than £13,000 in benefits being jailed for six weeks by magistrates on Monday. Christian De Vriess, aged 43, of Richard Stagg Close, St Albans, pleaded guilty to claiming income support, housing

A HOTLINE tip-off led to a man who fraudulently claimed more than £13,000 in benefits being jailed for six weeks by magistrates on Monday.

Christian De Vriess, aged 43, of Richard Stagg Close, St Albans, pleaded guilty to claiming income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit between June 17, 2002, and July 12, 2003, and again between August 12, 2005, and August 6, 2006, when he maintained he was not working.

But a phone call to a fraud benefit hotline tipped off investigators who produced evidence in court to show De Vriess had in fact been working as a driver cum porter for Kuehne and Nagel Logistics and Excel Management during those periods.

He also pleaded guilty to working for Hearnden and Daughters funeral directors in Holywell Hill, St Albans, when he was claiming income support.

John Collins, for the Department of Work and Pensions, said De Vriess had claimed overpayments of £10,197 in income support and £3,048 in housing benefit and council tax.

Sarah Colby, defending, said De Vriess was repaying £9.15 a week towards the overpayment.

She went on: "He and his partner had to live on £76 a week between them and often could not afford to buy food or for him to visit his five-year old son in Newcastle."

She said he was suffering from a severe panic disorder which meant he was unable to work or to travel on public transport.

And she added that his medical condition had resulted in him being put in a strait jacket in a padded cell during a previous spell in prison in 1989. Ms Colby recommended that his claustrophobia made prison an unsuitable option for him.

But magistrates sitting in St Albans disagreed, claiming the seriousness of the offence and abuse of public money made prison the only source of punishment open to them.

The National Benefit Hotline is 0800 854440.

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