JAILED: Elderly benefits cheat who stole more than £210,000 from the taxpayer

Ian Burns
Ian Burns

An Aylesbury pensioner who illegally claimed more than £210,000 in benefits has been jailed- but is almost certain to never pay back the money he fleeced from taxpayers.

Ian Burns, 72, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for falsely claiming £210,598 in pension credit, housing benefit and council tax benefit over a period of around 11 years.

But Burns, of Coventon Road, is only paying back the money at a rate of £50 a week, meaning it would take him 81 years to repay the fraudulent claims, by which time he would be 153 years old.

Sentencing him yesterday, Judge Griffiths told Burns: “It would be an affront to public justice were I to allow you your freedom today.

“The message has to go out that the public purse cannot be fleeced.”

Burns used three different names, including that of a dead person, to illegally claim the money in what was described at Amersham Crown Court as a ‘surprisingly easy’ and ‘unsophisticated’ fiddle.

The money, which was claimed between 2002 and 2013, was paid into Burns’ building society account, with authorities under the impression it was being passed to someone else.

Judge Griffiths said he was surprised by the lack of sophistication behind the fraud, but has been told it would not be so easy for someone to do the same thing now.

Prosecuting, Daniel Bunting said: “The system works very much on trust.

“It was surprisingly easy to carry out such a fraud.”

The court heard that Burns was not living a luxury lifestyle as a result of his crimes and that he had squandered much of the money on alcohol.

The court was also told how Burns had been admitted to hospital after cutting his wrists just days before pleading guilty to the crimes last November.

Probation officer Adrienne Rogers explained that Burns, who lives alone in a house owned by his step-son, suffers from depression and is on a range of medication, including for back pain picked up during his career as a builder.

Ms Rogers said that given his condition and age he would struggle to cope with being imprisoned.

Defending Burns, Daniel Higgins said: “Custody would inevitably be very difficult for somebody in his position.

“One has to wonder what would be the benefit to society of having Mr Burns in custody.

“The irony will be it is society that is having to pay more for that incarceration.”

The judge said he would have to impose a prison sentence because of the nature of the crimes, but that he would keep it as short as possible because of Burns’ condition and age.

Burns, who pleaded guilty, was given 18 months for illegally claiming £175,815 in pension credit, £27,945 in housing benefit and £6,836 in council tax payments.

The deception was uncovered during an investigation by the Department for Work and Pensions and Aylesbury Vale District Council.

Councillor Neil Blake, AVDC leader, said: “Stealing the identity of a dead man in order to claim benefits is clearly shocking and the sentence issued by the courts reflects the severity of this case.

“The vast majority of those claiming benefits are doing so entirely legally.

“However, the tiny minority of those who seek to play the system and defraud hardworking taxpayers will be found out and punished.

“This case should leave no one in any doubt that we are serious about that commitment.”