Martyn Brown of the Daily Express reports Britain’s benefit system is seen as a money-making scam by criminals, Iain Duncan Smith warned yesterday.
The Work and Pensions Secretary promised to get tough with benefit cheats, vowing they will not get away with swindling the taxpayer out of anymore money.
A rogues gallery of 10 of the most outrageous con artists caught this year includes people who claimed to ill to work, or even walk, but were caught jetskiing, Morris dancing, trampolining, bodybuilding, playing golf and even performing on TV’s The X Factor spin-off The Xtra Factor.
Latest figures show £1.2billion was lost to fraud last year.
Ministers say that the move to Universal Credit – combining several benefits into one – will make it easier to catch fraudsters.
Mr Duncan Smith said: “The vast majority of people play by the rules. I’m determined to root out the unscrupulous minority who are cheating hard working taxpayers and diverting it from those who need it most.
“Some people see the welfare state as a money-making scam but I have a simple message for them – you will not get away with it.”
Among the worst offenders last year, Sonia Mellor, 33, of Manchester, was given a suspended prison sentence for claiming £100,000 because she was “virtually immobile”. She was caught on film trampolining.
Karen Trant, 52, of Dartmouth, in Devon, was jailed for more than two years after raking in £134,000 in benefits. She said she could not walk outdoors in new places but enjoyed tropical holidays and had plastic surgery.
Former Mr Wales Peter Beddoe, 50, of Aberdare, was jailed for six months after falsely claiming £28,000 in benefits while competing in bodybuilding.
The £23,000 scam of father-of-five Joseph Ross, 44, of Walsall, West Midlands, was rumbled when a Youtube video of him emerged playing a guitar with boyband JLS on the Xtra Factor. He got a suspended jail sentence.
Allan Baldwin, 67, of Lockerbie in Scotland, claimed more than £28,000 in benefits after saying he was barely able to walk. Yet investigators filmed him joining in with a Morris dancing group. He also got a suspended jail term.
Mark Kemp, 58, of Oldham, Lancs, claimed £35,000 in disability living allowance saying he needed a stick to walk, despite teaching martial arts. He too was given a suspended jail term.