Benefits cheat ‘too ill to work’ caught after Fitbit records 10,000 steps a day

A mum who fraudulently claimed £7,000 in housing and disability benefits was caught after her Fitbit clocked up 10,000 steps in a single day.

Helen May, 39, who initially got benefits due to a heart problem she had since the age of 10, failed to tell authorities that her health had improved so much between 2014 and 2017 that she was capable to work in three different places.

The woman was caught cheating the benefit’s system when a co-worker at a cafe reported May had recorded 10,000 steps on a single day on her fitness watch.

Appearing at South Cumbria Magistrates Court this week, May was handed a community order and told she must wear an electronic tag for the next 10 weeks.

The court heard she was once unable to work because of a heart problem that caused palpitations and tiredness.

However, between 2014 and 2017 May’s condition improved and within the space of just nine months in 2015 she lost 53lbs and dropped four dress sizes.

The fact May was in employment meant she was ineligible for housing benefit and her health improvements excluded her from disability benefit, it was heard.

Had May been honest with South Lakeland District Council she would have had her benefits cut completely, it’s believed.

Peter Barnsley, prosecuting, told the court a witness had seen May log 10,000 steps on her Fitbit fitness tracker during a day at work.

Tristan Roberts, mitigating, said his client was serving tea and coffee for a few hours a day and that the work was not physically exerting.

As well as the cafe job, May worked at an aquarium and Weightwatchers between 2014 and 2017, magistrates heard.

They were told the defendant had already paid back some of the benefits she had illegally claimed.

Mr Roberts said: "She is a lady who has not troubled authorities before and is not likely to trouble them again."

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: "Only a small minority of benefit claimants are dishonest, but cases like these show how we are catching the minority who cheat the system and divert taxpayers’ money from those who need it.

"We are determined to catch those we suspect of fraudulently claiming benefits by following up on tip-offs, undertaking surveillance and working with local councils.

As well as a community order and a 7pm to 7am curfew May was ordered to pay £400 in court costs.

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