A father who cheated the taxpayer out of £30,000 benefits was caught and jailed after his seven-year-old son wrote an online blog – detailing the family’s TEN MONTH Caribbean cruise.
Fraudster Simon Daymond-Harris (Corr), 37, claimed £560-a-month in housing benefit from August 2006 due to his ‘low income’ as a barman of £90-a-week.
He told authorities he worked 16 hours-a-week and because of his modest wage could not support his wife and three children.
Daymond-Harris claimed he was paying £925-a-month in rent at a four-bedroom waterside apartment in Millbay Marina Village, Plymouth, for four years.
But the flat was actually owned by his parents and he lived there rent-free, meaning he illegally pocketed £28,778.45 between 2006 and last year.
Daymond-Harris was caught after his seven-year-old son Oliver wrote an online blog detailing their ten month round-the-world cruise of the Caribbean.
The blog, which has since been removed, led to further investigations which showed Daymond-Harris had doctored bank statements to try and hide that he was out of the country.
Sentencing Daymond-Harris to 12 weeks at Plymouth Magistrate’s Court, district judge Paul Farmer said: ”This was a deliberate fraud which was dealt with in a sophisticated way.
”Clearly it is appropriate that you and people like you are given a deterrent sentence.”
Daymond-Harris submitted a joint application with his wife for housing benefit in August 2006 after claiming they were both on a low income and could not afford the £925-a-month rent on their luxury waterside four-bedroom apartment in Millbay Marina Village, Plymouth.
He told the authorities he was working behind a bar earning £90 for 16 hours-a-week at a pub in High Wycombe, Bucks.
But suspicions were roused by unexplained deposits in his account shown on bank statements he gave in support of the claim and official documents later revealed he was actually the registered licensee of the pub
Land Registry documents then proved that the flat was owned by Daymond-Harris’s parents – in contradiction to what he had claimed.
But the final nail in the coffin came after investigators found an online blog by his then seven-year-old son Oliver – which documented in detail their Caribbean cruise to St Lucia.
It showed that Daymond-Harris had left the UK on his parents’ yacht ‘The Sakida’ in November 2006 – just three months after the first claim – and that they did not plan to return until October 2007.
He went with his wife and their three children, though all but the eldest son returned in May 2007.
Magistrates heard the couple now have a fourth child.
Plymouth City Council obtained Daymond-Harris’ original bank statements, which showed cash withdrawals in the Caribbean, which he claimed had been made at retail outlet Trago Mills in Devon.
She said that the housing benefit paid into his bank account by his mother covered the cash withdrawals in the Caribbean.
Helen Morris, prosecuting for Plymouth City Council, said: ”When it was put to him in interview that a cash withdrawal made in St Lucia was changed to Trago Mills he admitted that it did not look terribly good.”
Daymond-Harris admitted changing the bank statements, putting the wrong landlord’s name on his claim, making up entirely false rent books and confessed to never paying any rent on the property.
He admitted making a false statement to obtain benefit in August 2006, and also two similar offences in March 2007 and May 2008 including submitting a false bank statement, rent book and a false written statement to support his claim.
Daymond-Harris also revealed he had repaid the entire sum back to the authorities thanks to a loan from his father.
Representing himself in court, Daymond-Harris said: ”I know this is very serious and I am very sorry.
”I can assure you I will not appear in court again. I cannot say why I did it, I just don’t know.”
A Plymouth City Council spokesperson said after the case: ”Benefit fraud is not a victimless crime.
”Those who obtain benefit fraudulently are stealing from the city and from the people of Plymouth.”
Frauds like this add to the negative stigma of being on benefits. Everyone hears of these cheats and the majority of the general public assume all those who claim are cheats and fraudsters. This also sets the standards for the perception that all claims are fraudulent and many are refused until the tribunal stage. This stigma makes the genuine claimants feel as if they should not be claiming even if they have spent their whole lives working and paying into the state benefits system.
I think someone with this amount of personal income should receive a sentence appropriate to the amount of the fraud, one month for every one thousand pounds, he should have got 28 months with no time off for good behaviour. Now that would be a deterrent.