Ex-hospital porter kept £35k secret in Norwich council tax fraud

Norwich Magistrates' Court

Norwich Magistrates' Court

Archant © 2011

A retired hospital porter kept £35,000 in three secret bank accounts while claiming benefits on his Bowthorpe home.

Roger Cunningham, who used to work at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, kept the cash in three Barclays accounts and had an NHS pension which he kept hidden from Norwich City Council.

Norwich Magistrates’ Court heard yesterday that the cash and pension meant he was overpaid £3,472 in council tax benefits.

Cunningham, of Skoner Road, Bowthorpe, admitted making a false claim to get the money.

The 68-year-old started claiming benefits in November 2006 and told authorities he had just one account with NatWest.

But in October 2010 the city council was told by the Department for Work and Pensions they had stopped Cunningham’s pension credits as he had an NHS pension.

When quizzed by the council, he still claimed he only had the one NatWest account and so continued to get council tax benefits.

But in February 2011, the housing benefit matching service told the council Cunningham had four bank accounts.

He admitted in interview he had more than £35,000 stashed away and said he was unsure why he had lied.

But Yvonne Blake, prosecuting for the city council, did not ask for Cunningham to pay the council’s court costs due to his lack of money.

The £35,000 has been spent making up a shortfall on his mortgage.

Chris Brown, mitigating, said Cunningham was not getting a pension when he first claimed benefits.

He went on sick leave and was given incapacity benefit after being mugged on a trip to London.

His arm was badly injured and his health got worse.

District Judge Peter Veits said he could not punish Cunningham with unpaid work or a curfew due to his bad health and the fact he was likely to be treated in hospital soon.

He gave Cunningham a conditional discharge for a year.

Mr Veits said: “You clearly got yourself into a mess with this brought about by your health situation, but what you did was fraudulent and deserves punishment.”

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