Belfast Telegraph

100 years to pay back the benefits cash he swindled

Spanish property owner with thousands in the bank who claimed £40k in social security told to pay it back at rate of £2 a fortnight

By Michael Donnelly

A disgraced former soldier who raked in almost £40,000 in fraudulent benefit claims is being told to pay it back at just £2 a fortnight.

If former Royal Irish Regiment private Clive Miller was forced to pay the full amount back, it would take more than 100 years - by which time he would be aged almost 154.

Miller had around £281,000 in two banks, as well as a bar and other property in the Alicante region of Spain, while claiming benefits.

Yesterday, the 47-year-old Co Fermanagh man walked free from court with a 12-month suspended sentence after a Dungannon Crown Court judge said he had received a testimonial from a "senior politician" which "spoke glowingly of his work in the voluntary sector".

Miller, from Coleshill Crescent in Enniskillen, had previously pleaded guilty to four charges of failing to declare a change in circumstances to the Social Security Agency between May 2002 and December 2010 in obtaining both housing benefit and income support.

Last month prosecution lawyer Michael McAleer revealed that while claiming the extra benefits, Miller failed to declare that he was in receipt of additional sources of income.

Nor had he told the authorities he had a house and a bar complex in Alicante, and was using the benefit payments to fund the Spanish mortgages.

However, in defence it was agreed that Miller had not been leading a "champagne or extravagant lifestyle".

Defence lawyer Conan Rae also revealed Miller, who served in the Royal Irish for three years, was also left in negative equity on a Spanish property, now worth thousands less than he paid for it.

Mr Rea said that Miller had made arrangements with Social Services to repay part of the overpaid monies to Income Support at a rate of £10 per week, but following a review this was reduced to £2 per fortnight.

During the earlier hearing, Mr McAleer said investigations into Miller's frauds first began in October 2009. Enquiries, he added, revealed that he had one Spanish property which was sold in 2004.

Further investigation uncovered two other properties, also in Alicante, an apartment and a bar complex, the first of which was bought in March 2005 and the second in June 2006.

Mr McAleer also revealed Miller was "funding the mortgages" for them - €178,000 and €156,000 - "whilst he was in receipt of Housing Benefit and in receipt of Income Support".

He added: "Mr Miller knew that he had an obligation to declare these Spanish properties to the Social Services Agency".

The lawyer said that a review of an Ulster Bank account over the eight-year period showed that nearly £175,000 in benefits had been paid into it, together with "an additional unaccounted sum of" over £130,000, indicating that he was not a "person solely reliant" on benefits.

A second account held with Santander, which "was not used to have benefits paid into it", showed that between 2004 and 2013, over £151,000 was lodged.

In all, said Mr McAleer, Miller, who "maintained a denial of any wrongdoing" when questioned by police, was awarded £19,001.45 in Housing Benefit he was not entitled to, while also being overpaid £20,020.48 in Income Support.

Later in defence submissions, Mr Rea said that during the eight-year period in question, Miller, who has a number of physical and mental issues, "was in the throes of addiction", both alcohol and gambling.

Two other charges of money laundering against the former soldier - who is still in receipt of benefits including Disability Living Allowance and industrial injuries after a workplace fall 20 years ago - were 'left on the books' and not proceeded with.

Judge Ramsey said Miller "faces an uncertain future", including a 'proceeds of crime' hearing to determine what monies he has to repay, and that his offending had also cost him his marriage.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph