Benefit cheat to repay £17,000

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A MAN has been ordered to repay more than £17,000 after falsely claiming benefits for over six years.

John Harding, 57, of Whitegate Road, Siddal, Halifax, shared the dock at Bradford Crown Court with his son, Andrew, 27, who was found guilty of conning his elderly girlfriend out of £7,000.

Police began investigating the family finances after they discovered Brenda Nicholls, then 72, had been meeting Andrew, who has learning difficulties, every week for three years to give him money.

They found Mrs Nicholls, who also has learning difficulties, had been travelling from Mytholmroyd to Siddal to give him around £100 a week to put in their wedding fund.

Her care worker raised the alarm after noticing her appearance had become dishelleved and there was no food on her shelves.

During the trial, Harding told the court he had no intention of marrying the vulnerable widow. He was found guilty in December of deception and obtaining criminal property.

At their joint confiscation hearing, Bradford Crown Court was told Andrew Harding, who is currently serving two years in prison, made around £7,000 from conning Mrs Nicholls.

The maximum he can afford to pay back is £4,651.

His father was originally arrested over his savings of £120,000. When police searched the family home they found £15,500 of purchases from TV shopping channels. After going through each deposit on the day of John Harding’s trial, they found the purchases and all but £15,000 could be accounted for.

Although the family were entitled to some benefits because their son Christopher has profound learning difficulties, John Harding had falsely claimed council tax, income support and Jobseekers Allowance over six years.

As well as repaying the full £15,000, he was also told to pay £1,100 costs, £900 fine and a £15 victim surcharge.

He was not given any hours of unpaid work to complete because he is full-time carer for Christopher and his wife, who last month had her leg amputated because of a blood clot.

Sophie Drake, representing him, said it was likely he would soon have to give up his job as a cleaner for Calderdale Council to care for them both.

Judge Peter Benson said if either of them fail to repay the money, they will face prison.

Det Con Ashley Nuttall said it was a “significant result” at the end of a long police inquiry. “It’s fitting that the money is being compensated to Brenda Nicholls.”