Disability benefits cheat secretly filmed completing 5k runs

A benefits cheat who was secretly filmed completing five kilometre runs when she claimed she could barely walk has been jailed for two years.

Annette Bond has also been ordered to pay back nearly £70,000 under proceeds of crime legislation.

The 50-year-old spent a decade claiming “enhanced” benefit payments due to a serious condition she claimed made it difficult for her to stand up or even get out of bed.

But a fraud investigation team set up secret surveillance to capture her running around 5,000 metre circuits from her home in Stanley, Perthshire, up to four times a week.

The jury at Perth Sheriff Court heard how the 49-year-old silversmith spent nearly ten years fraudulently obtaining £67,062.50 by claiming her mobility was severely impaired by multiple sclerosis.

Crown Office

Bond was found guilty after the jury was shown video footage of her leaving her home in high visibility running gear to carry out sub-30 minute 5k runs around her neighbourhood.

Department of Work and Pensions fraud investigator Scott Hodge, 54, said the team eventually quit the surveillance operation early because they had gathered so much damning evidence against Bond.

He told the court that the team parked in view of Bond’s home and filmed her running the same route three times in a ten-day period in 2017.

“She is walking briskly and then she turns at the junction and begins to run,” he told the court.

“That road was taking her away from Stanley and into a wooded area.

“I have gone ahead of the subject and then captured footage of her running along the road back into Stanley. It would have been hills, ascents and descents, at various different parts of the journey.

“We used an internet website to ascertain the distance. The estimated distance run was 4,800 metres – just short of three miles.”

He said Bond completed the run in 27 minutes.

Mr Hodge told the court that Bond had completed the runs without any support from anyone else, had not been unsteady on her feet, and did not appear to be impaired.

He said the team had been granted a warrant to carry out the surveillance operation between May 30 and August 29, 2017, but brought it to a premature conclusion after less than two weeks.

“It was felt that we would probably just see more of the same over the following days, so the decision was taken to end surveillance,” he said.

He said Bond’s confident running – often alongside passing cars on main roads around the Perthshire village – was at odds with the claims she had made about her conditions, including vertigo and dizzy spells.

On her claim form, she stated “I prefer someone with me at all times when I am outdoors because I have poor balance. There is a risk of falling and dizzy spells.”

Her 68-year-old mother told the jury her daughter was diagnosed with MS in 2004, but exercised regularly to fight the condition.

Mrs Bond said: “I occasionally saw her when I was on the way to work. She was out running. I was very pleased to see she was fit enough to run.

“It was most mornings on my way to work. For months. She seemed to walk quite well. She was exercising to try and strengthen her legs.

“I think she had a running machine in her house. I think it was a cross-trainer she had as well.”

In her own evidence, Bond admitted running around four times per week, but claimed the investigators happened to catch her out during a period when she was fitter.

In an agreed joint minute, the jury was told that Bond had not reported any change in her circumstances to the Department of Work and Pensions between June 9, 2004 and November 27, 2018.

The joint minute also confirmed that Bond had been running an online Etsy business between 2013 and 2018. She gave “no comment” answers during an interview at Perth Job Centre in 2019.

“I have noted you continue to maintain your innocence,” Sheriff William Wood told Bond on Wednesday.

“You must have known you did not meet the criteria for the benefits of which you were in receipt.

“Your conduct can only be characterised as a prolonged and egregious course of dishonesty, for which there is no excuse.

“You have obtained, through fraud, a significant sum of money to which you had no entitlement and you have deprived the taxpayer of funds that might have been usefully spent elsewhere.

“You have defrauded the state of a large sum of money over a protracted period. I am satisfied only a custodial sentence is appropriate.”

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