British expat pleads guilty to benefit fraud

FOR years James Bowery, 54, from Harrowside, Blackpool enjoyed life in Spain, living off UK income support, a non-exportable benefit, without telling the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that he had moved to Malaga.

In total he fraudulently claimed over £15,000 (€17,247), the British Embassy in Madrid revealed.

Having been caught, he pleaded guilty to benefit fraud at Blackpool Magistrates Court in September and was sentenced to a three-month curfew order, restricting his freedom to leave home – and he has to pay the money back.

Between April 2010 and March 2011, benefit cheats stole £79 million from UK taxpayers by not informing the authorities that they were going abroad, Embassy figures show.

Spain is one of the countries where most UK benefit fraud is committed, but with UK fraud investigators working with overseas counterparts, benefit thieves are being caught.

Many assume that benefit fraud only occurs when someone receives a benefit, such as Job Seekers Allowance or incapacity benefit, and fails to tell the Department DWP when they start working.

But people who receive UK benefits have a responsibility to tell the DWP about any change in their circumstances, such as moving in with a partner, changing address, or going or moving abroad.

The DWP will soon be imposing a civil penalty on those who fail to keep them updated. For people who fail to take reasonable care of their claim, perhaps knowingly letting a change in circumstances run on and incurring a small overpayment, the DWP will swiftly apply a £50 civil penalty as a punishment to deter them from such action in future.

Deliberately withholding information that affects a benefit claim is a crime.

The Department for Work and Pensions for Spain has set up a free and confidential hotline that operates Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm.

benefit fraud.  You can also report this online at

The DWP wants benefits to go to the people who are entitled to them, not the cheats.

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