Skydive benefits cheat escapes jail
A mother-of-three caught skydiving after pocketing benefit cash for being too ill even to cook for herself has avoided jail.
Claire Jones, 38, of Tonypandy, in the Rhondda Valley, south Wales, was caught on camera plummeting to the ground at 12,000ft.
Fraudster Jones managed to pocket more than £6,000 claiming she was so ill she could not even chop vegetables. But an undercover investigation was launched by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after an anonymous tip-off about her.
They discovered that in reality Jones regularly went dancing with her partner and earned cash working in cafes. She was so active she was caught checking into the fitness suite at her local leisure centre to use its gym, swimming pool and sauna.
Jones initially denied all charges against her when she was confronted by DWP officials. She was forced to admit the truth when shown the DVD which fully chronicled her 12,000ft sky dive.
She had done the jump at Swansea Airport in October 2008 to raise cash for a cancer charity. Investigators got their hands on a copy of the souvenir DVD presented to every skydiver who takes the plunge. It shows her lugging the heavy paraphernalia of a parachute on to a plane, doing a tandem jump with a professional and landing with a jolt, despite her condition.
In her initial benefit application Jones had claimed she was unable to walk without crutches. She had gone on to say that she could only walk a distance of 20 to 25 feet and risked falling over even then.
She admitted two charges of failing to notify the authorities of a change in circumstances when she appeared at Pontypridd Magistrates' Court in May.
The offences covered a period between April 2008 to August 2010. Over that time she was given disability living allowance at the highest level and also received incapacity benefit for a bad back. She dishonestly claimed £6,016. About £900 had since been reclaimed by docking benefits she was still legitimately receiving.
She was given a 12 week jail sentence, suspended for one year, when she reappeared at the same court. She was also ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid community work, pay £100 court costs as well as a £15 victim surcharge. She will also have to repay all the outstanding cash fraudulently claimed.