Manchester

Benefit cheat Jake Preston filmed in motocross race win

A benefit cheat who claimed he could not walk was secretly filmed racing to victory in a British motocross competition.

Jake Preston, 20, claimed he had a condition called syringomyelia, causing him severe pain in his neck and spine, Bolton magistrates heard.

He fraudulently claimed £15,128 from September 2007 to March 2010.

Preston, of Bolton, was sentenced to a 12-month community order and ordered to do 250 hours of unpaid work.

He was also ordered to pay costs of £150 and must now pay back the benefit payments he fraudulently claimed.

He admitted failing to notify the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of a change in circumstance which would affect his claim.

'Quite a talent'

Image caption Preston claimed disability living allowance for mobility and care needs

Preston, of Loweswater Road, in Farnworth, claimed the higher rate of disability living allowance (DLA) for mobility and care needs.

William Birtwell, prosecuting, told the court the higher rate was for people who needed "significant care" during the day and night.

Preston said he could not walk a yard without severe pain and stopping to rest. He said he would fall and stumble and had problems going up and down stairs.

But Preston, who had been racing bikes from the age of 10, was filmed winning a race and coming third in another at the British Masters Motocross Championships in Whitby, North Yorkshire.

He had "quite a talent" at handling the off-road bikes across rough terrain, the court heard.

He also attended Bolton College, travelling there in a mobility car paid for by taxpayers.

Joe O'Conner, defending, told the court there was "no dishonesty" from Preston as he "relied on the advice of other people" to fill in the form and simply signed it off.

Mr O'Conner said although Preston accepted his claim form did not "accurately reflect his condition" he said his illness was not an invented "flight of fancy" and he had been treated by specialists for his recognised medical complaint since childhood.

Competing in motocross was one way of battling through the pain, he said. He often had to pull out of events and would suffer afterwards, he added.

Image caption Julie Preston, Jake's mother, is charged with failing to notify a change in circumstances

Carlton Janson, chairman of the bench, said: "In the future, Mr Preston, when you fill in any forms it will stand you in good stead if you read them first and then you can understand them as well."

Speaking after sentencing, north west regional fraud manager for the DWP, Vernon Sanderson, said: "It could take years but we always recover the money in every case, no matter how long it takes.

"It will be recovered for the taxpayer.

"This is a blatant fraud. He represented himself as being unable to walk.

"Clearly the evidence available showed a young man who was able to take part in strenuous sport. It was totally at odds with the information given to the department.

"We have had many cases in the recent past when people have been caught out playing golf. Motocross would tax even the most able-bodied person."

While Preston was at the magistrates court, his mother Julie Ann Preston, 43, was at Bolton Crown Court charged with failing to notify a change in circumstances, relating to her claim for DLA for her son from the age of 11 to 16.

No plea was entered and she is due to return to court next week.

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