A SECURITY guard at a prestigious Lancashire college has been jailed after cheating more than £30,000 of disability benefits, claiming he was incapacitated.
Christopher Reilly, 62, told the Department for Work and Pensions he needed help to get out of bed and could not walk even short distances without suffering debilitating pain.
But CCTV taken from Stonyhurst College in Lancashire showed Reilly, of Witton, Lancs, climbing ladders, carrying fire extinguishers and patrolling the college’s extensive grounds.
Michael Maher, prosecuting, told Preston Crown Court Reilly - a black belt in kickboxing - had first claimed disability benefits legitimately in 1992 after undergoing surgery for back and hip problems.
He was paid Disability Living Allowance at the highest rate and was given a Motability car to use due to the difficulties he claimed to have.
But despite telling the authorities his mobility was so poor he stumbled once or twice a week and had frequent falls, his CV - submitted to Stonyhurst in 1999 - stated his health was “excellent.”
One colleague, John McGee, who also worked in security at the £30,000 a year boarding school, told investigators about a conversation in May 2014 in which Reilly said he feared he was being investigated.
Reilly told him: “I think someone’s trying to stitch me up. It’s because of my car - it’s a mobility car. The receptionist has received a phone call from the DWP.”
Mr McGee also claimed Reilly had told him he was registered as disabled when he started the job but was perfectly fit to work now, adding: “I might have a word with the receptionist. If anyone calls or there are any letters in the post, just to say I work behind the desk.”
Reilly was arrested and interviewed and claimed that although he had been claiming DLA for 24 years he did not know he was supposed to report a change in circumstances which affected his claim.
His case had been reviewed the previous year but Reilly had allowed it to continue on the basis even walking short distances caused him significant pain.
When officers showed him a number of night security reports stating he had been carrying heavy items, opening the college’s heavy iron gates and climbing ladders, Reilly admitted he had performed those duties but said they caused him severe pain when he did so.
Paul Hodgkinson, defending, told the court his client was a man of previously good character and had pleaded guilty to fraudulently claiming £30,774.93 when he appeared in the crown court.
He added: “It wasn’t a claim that was fraudulent from the outset with wholly fabricated medical conditions.
“From reading the medical reports there still exists a medical condition from which the defendant suffers but it is less severe than it was on 1992 when the claim commenced.”
Judge Philip Sycamore, sentencing, said: “Ultimately it is a fraud against the taxpayer.”
He jailed Reilly for 27 weeks and ordered a Proceeds of Crime Hearing in which it is believed the defendant will have to release the equity in his home to repay his debt to the taxpayer.