Benefits cheat 'funded exotic jet-set lifestyle'
A £70,000 benefits cheat who said he couldn't walk was secretly filmed pulling two suitcases through an airport before jetting away on a luxury holiday to Australia with his wife.
During a 12-year period, fraudster Kevin McEntee, 64, of Birkenhead, Merseyside, enjoyed a lavish lifestyle which included 19 foreign cruises with his former wife Pauline, while claiming that they were both significantly disabled and in need of care.
In reality, McEntee - who claimed to be housebound and needed a walking frame - was part of a cycle club, riding twice a week while making renewed claims for Disability Living Allowance for himself and wife totalling £68,924.45.
He was jailed for two years after Liverpool Crown Court heard that he had "grossly exaggerated the extent of his difficulties" and had enjoyed as many as three holidays a year around the Mediterranean, Brazil and the Caribbean.
The court heard that some of the trips were taken in the weeks before or after a claim was made.
He was filmed in 2013 at Manchester Airport "moving without apparent difficulty" and walking for half a mile.
In respect of his claim, McEntee had fraudulently claimed £48,000 from the public purse and more than £20,000 on behalf of his wife.
He was found guilty of five offences of benefit fraud after trial.
Jailing him, Judge Andrew Menary QC said: "You did so for the simple and dishonest purpose of taking advantage of a benefit to which you knew full well that neither you or your wife was entitled.
"Anyone looking at the forms would have assumed that they were dealing with a couple who were very seriously disabled."
In 2000, unemployed McEntee who been involved in an industrial injury in 1996, claimed that following a heart attack he needed a walking stick, regularly fell and was not able to walk 25 metres.
He said he that needed help bathing, getting out of bed and help cutting up his food.
He was rewarded Disability Living Allowance and had a blue disabled badge for his car.
It was not disputed that McEntee had suffered medical complaints including osteoarthritis, cervical spondylosis and depression - but the extent to how it affected his daily activities were "deliberately exaggerated".
Judge Menary accepted that although he had suffered from long-standing and genuine medical problems, they "did not have the profound and substantial impact" on his mobility like he had repeatedly claimed.
The prosecution told the trial that six weeks after suffering a heart attack in 1999, McEntee was able to undertake a Mediterranean cruise.
A further claim in 2002 told how his condition had got "worse" and he could not use a pen to write.
In 2010, he completed the first of his wife's renewal forms stating that she had virtual incontinence and was housebound. A further claim reiterated this.
On a last claim in 2012, he stated that his own condition had deteriorated and walked with a frame - being unable to walk more than three metres and that he was agoraphobic.
Photographs of foreign holidays showed this not to be the case and witnesses described that Pauline was able to line-dance.
In mitigation, Mr Eric Lamb said that the claim had not been fraudulent from the outset and he was of previous good character.
He added that he had been bullied at school and a custodial sentence would be "a shock".
Judge Menary added: "The sad reality is that very little, if any, of this was true and any member of the public who hears or reads about this case and discovers what you and your wife were doing and fully able to do, of the lifestyle you both enjoyed throughout this period would be entitled to feel complete outrage."
The court was told that McEntee had played "a leading role" in the fraud involving his and his wife's claims, but the judge said he could not determine if she had been actively involved.
He added: "The fraud funded an obviously lavish lifestyle. Despite being unemployed for some years, you were able to afford to buy and service an expensive bike and you enjoyed the many cruises and foreign holidays."