Bankrupt property tycoon avoids jail for £20k benefits fraud
A Belfast man who owed the bank millions as a result of the property crash appeared in court for a case cited by a judge as a "modern day tragedy".
Alan Jones was ordered to serve 120 hours community service after admitting a series of benefit frauds over a four-year period.
Belfast Crown Court yesterday heard that the 51-year-old had spent a vast part of his life travelling and working around the world, but returned to Northern Ireland in 1999 to support his mother following the death of his father.
When he returned Jones took over his father's property business, but "was not very business savvy" and, following the 2007 crash, he "owed the bank millions ... and all his assets were stripped".
Jones, from Oakleigh Park, was also declared bankrupt, and signed on in order to claim Jobseeker's Allowance.
At certain times over a period from February 2011 to May 2015 Jones made a false declaration while claiming benefits, as he failed to disclose that he was renting out a room in his house for £159 per week - amounting to a benefits overpayment of just over £20,000.
Judge Patricia Smyth was told that while Jones's initial benefit claim was legitimate, there were occasions when he made false declarations to the Social Security Agency.
Jones, who had no criminal record, also failed to declare he had capital, which came in the form of inheritance when his mother passed away.
A barrister acting for Jones spoke of his client's good character, adding he was a man who had gone from being "extremely wealthy to financial ruin".
He also spoke of the impact the death of both parents had on Jones.
Ordering the accused to complete 120 hours community service, Judge Patricia Smyth said the case was a "modern day tragedy".
She said: "The circumstances of the property crash in 2008 have had far-reaching consequences for many people."
The judge also said she was "entirely satisfied" that Jones would not appear in court again.
She added: "It is absolutely clear to me this is not a case where the defendant was engaging in a luxurious lifestyle, or using the money for any flash purposes."