A 64-year-old company director has been sentenced to community service after admitting benefit fraud.
James Richard Haggas failed to declare bank accounts held by him and his partner which resulted in him being overpaid £17,781 in Jobsseeker’s Allowance, to which he was not entitled.
Magistrates ordered him to do 200 hours unpaid work in the next 12 months.
We previously reported that Haggas had been receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance between April 2020 and July 2021, based on him being unemployed.
He submitted his claim on April 6, 2020, with his partner also named in the claim forms.
However, in February 2021, a review of bank statements revealed that Haggas, who lives at Old Castletown Road, Port Soderick, had received a payment into his account of £20,000 on December 22, 2020.
He had then made two withdrawals of £10,000.
A letter was sent to him asking for an explanation and for his partner’s bank statements.
His partner’s statements were provided but no explanation was given for the £20,000.
Other accounts were found which had not been declared relating to Haggas, including a business account, with credit balances of £213,169.
His partner was said to have received £121,663 into her personal account between May 2020 and July 2021.
In August 2021, Haggas was interviewed by DHSC staff and said that the £20,000 payment was money received from his father to pay school fees for his children.
He claimed that he had no access to one of the business accounts mentioned but offered no explanation for other amounts.
When asked about his partner’s statements and income, Haggas said ‘she sold stuff’ and said she had been doing well.
The investigation concluded that both Haggas and his partner had been receiving regular amounts prior to his Jobseeker’s Allowance claim.
The court heard that he has since paid back £1,778 on March 3 and £12,000 on May 10 so just over £4,000 remains outstanding.
In court, Haggas pleaded guilty to making a false representation to obtain a benefit and failing to inform a change in circumstances.
Defence advocate Sara-Jayne Dodge handed in letters of reference and a letter of apology from her client.
Ms Dodge asked magistrates to follow the sentencing recommendation of a probation report, for a community service order.
The advocate said: ‘Mr Haggas simply failed to understand the importance of completing the forms with care and attention. ‘He had directorships which he failed to consider as they weren’t providing him income. He has poor administrative skills.
‘There was a failure to understand the meaning of “household”. They weren’t married and had separate finances.’
Of the failure to inform a change of circumstances, Ms Dodge said: ‘He was simply of the belief that his circumstances had not changed. He wasn’t receiving income from employment at the time.
‘It was a misunderstanding and a lapse of judgement.
‘Mr Haggas’s life has completely changed and he is truly devastated. At the time he was operating under a considerable amount of stress.
‘He wasn’t using the funds to fund a lavish lifestyle but was paying school fees.
‘It was to meet the needs of his children and debts of his businesses.
‘He did genuinely need the income at that time. There was a misunderstanding as to what “income” meant.’
A probation report assessed Haggas as a low risk of reoffending.
Ms Dodge said that her client had resigned all his directorships and had started work as a painter.
Magistrates’ chair David Christian said: ‘We do believe you showed genuine remorse and didn’t fully understand the forms you were completing.
‘But we have to send out a message that fraud of the public purse will not be accepted.’
Haggas was also ordered to pay £50 prosecution costs within one month.
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