Benefits cheat Rhona Vessey exposed in marching band sting

Rhona Vessey Image copyright SWNS
Image caption Rhona Vessey was spotted marching with a band on three occasions

A woman who claimed she could "barely walk" has been ordered to repay £6,000 in benefits after being spotted banging a drum in a marching band.

Rhona Vessey, 50, told benefits staff her poor physical condition meant she was often too weak to lift a shopping bag.

But a Department for Work and Pensions probe found she was secretly taking part in "lengthy marching routines".

She admitted the fraud to magistrates and has been told to pay the cash back.

'No limitations'

Lynn Bickley, prosecuting at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates' Court, said Vessey, from Little Eaton, had claimed a problem with her legs meant she was virtually unable to walk.

She said she would get out of breath after about 20m (65ft) and felt anxious if people looked at her when she was outside.

But following a tip-off by a member of the public, a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) investigation found she was actually taking part in lengthy and complex marching routines with her band.

Miss Bickley said: "The result of the surveillance was that on three occasions she was observed marching in the band with a drum strapped to her shoulder and there were no limitations on her mobility."

Vessey was ordered to return the £6,251 in benefits she received between October 2014 and October 2015 and given a 10-week community order confining her to her house from 19:00 to 07:00.

District Judge Jonathan Taaffe said: "This is not a victimless crime because there is no bottomless pit of money that people can fraudulently claim from."

A DWP spokesman said: "Only a small minority of people try to cheat the benefits system, but cases like this show how we are rooting out those who are stealing taxpayers' money."

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