Jail for ‘blind’ Leeds scout leader who fiddled £42,000 benefits

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A benefit fraudster who claimed he was blind, had severe arthritis and was unable to walk while working as a driving instructor has been jailed.

Scout leader Michael Land dishonestly claimed more than £42,000 over a seven-year period while working for driving schools in Leeds.

Land, 44, was jailed for 12 months after pleading guilty to nine offences of benefit fraud.

Leeds Crown Court heard Land lied to authorities that his eye sight had failed due to glaucoma, that he was suffering from diabetes and that he was unable to walk more than ten metres.

The former nurse also made false claims that he needed the use of a wheelchair, had severe breathing difficulties and needed his wife to help him get out of a chair.

Land made the false declarations to the Department of Work and Pensions between October 2006 and May 2013 to obtain £42,203 in incapacity benefit, disability living allowance, tax credits and housing and council tax benefit.

During that period Land registered with the Driving Standards Agency as an instructor.

His first student passed her test in September 20011.

Simon Clegg, prosecuting, said the father-of-two worked on an independent basis as well as for reputable firms including Drive Dynamic, Red Driving School and Bill Plant Ltd.

Mr Clegg told the court: “The defendant was paid as someone who was not able to work, but also as someone who required care and and assistance with mobility.

“He was also paid benefits as someone not in receipt of a pension.”

The court heard Land was able to buy a caravan worth £21,000 during the period of offending.

Kara Frith, mitigating, said Land, of Holtdale Road, Holt Park, Leeds, was ashamed of his offending and had pleaded guilty at an early opportunity.

She said Land initially made legitimate claims for benefits but then began to “exaggerate” his claims.

Ms Frith said Land had once weighed 30 stone and had undergone a gastric bypass.

She described Land as a man who had worked hard to obtain a nursing degree but his career in the profession ended following a breakdown.

The lawyer said Land was devastated at not being able to return to nursing or his role as a scout leader because of his convictions for dishonesty offences.

Referring to the false claims, judge Sally Cahill, QC, said: “This was not just exaggeration - this was fabrication.”