Ex-Pleasure Beach employee will have to pay back £22K after benefit fraud

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A former ‘ambassador’ at Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach has been found guilty of disability benefits fraud.

Now Keith Statter, 66, who worked at the attraction for eight years, has been told he will be the subject of a Proceeds of Crime action at Preston Crown Court.

Part-timer Statter worked at the Pleasure Beach for up to 50-hours-a-week during the peak season.

Blackpool Magistrates Court was told the retired gas engineer may have to walk up to four miles-a-day.

But Statter – who retired after suffering three heart attacks and who also suffers from diabetes and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – was also claiming Disabled Living Allowance and said he could only walk 25 yards at a time.

He claimed his legs would swell up, he was in severe pain and he had no sensation in one of his feet.

Statter, of Albany Avenue, South Shore, was found guilty after a trial of dishonestly failing to notify the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) that his ability to walk had improved.

The court ruled he claimed £22,224 in benefits based on the claim his walking was restricted.

Yesterday District Judge Jeff Brailsford sent Statter for sentence to Preston Crown Court after the prosecution asked him to become the subject of a Proceeds of Crime hearing.

The higher court could rule that Statter pays back the amount dishonestly claimed in full.

DWP investigator Linda Daisley said: “I started an investigation into Mr Statter’s claim when doubt was cast on its authenticity. Had we known what he was doing at the Pleasure Beach, the claim would have been cancelled.”

After the case, Statter said he had been paying back the sum at the rate of £189 each month from his state pension.

And he denied that his work involved walking for long periods.

He said: “This has come as a huge shock to me. I was fed-up being a couch potato at home after I retired due to ill health, so I applied for a job at the Pleasure Beach.

“I was only working selling tickets and wrist bands and other items.

“I didn’t walk around much at all. I’ve worked all my life and wasn’t even claiming disability benefits at first.

“I don’t know why they are holding a Proceeds of Crime hearing because I’ve been paying back the money for nearly three years now. They say it will take 10 years to pay it all back.”

The hearing was told Statter had volunteered at a welfare rights centre in Blackpool.

A DWP spokesman said: “Only a small minority of benefit claimants are dishonest, but cases like this show how we are rooting out the unscrupulous minority who are cheating the system and diverting taxpayers’ money from those who really need it.

“We are determined to find those we suspect of abusing the welfare system by following up on tip-offs, undertaking surveillance and working with local councils. “

The Pleasure Beach added: “We note that Mr Statter has been found guilty of benefit fraud.”