Retired boss drove flash sports motor but claimed benefit

Scot Mackenzie

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A RETIRED company director who drove a flash sports car claimed £20,000 in benefits he wasn’t entitled to.

Ronald French was still receiving monthly payments from Gosport based Acrol Ltd, a company that manufactures air filters, after he stepped down as the director.

But the 67-year-old claimed council tax and housing benefit from Gosport Borough Council and pension credits from the Department for Work and Pensions.

He was given a two-month prison sentence suspended for 12 months after pleading guilty to four charges of failing to notify the authorities of a change in circumstances at Portsmouth Crown Court.

Councillor Mark Hook, leader of Gosport Borough Council, said: ‘It’s sad that during these difficult times and when people are genuinely in need of help and assistance, that others fraudulently claim benefits.

‘That is why we will continue to take offenders before the courts, to ensure that those genuinely in need of help do not suffer as a consequence.’

French was caught out after an anonymous tip off from a member of the public who claimed he was still working for Acrol and driving a Mazda RX8 sports car.

Fraud investigators looked into his Nationwide bank account and found a number of unexplained payments going in. When they interviewed French he told them about a second bank account, which Acrol made weekly payments of £270 into.

French, of Dartmouth Court, Gosport, said the money was to repay loans of £18,000 he had made to the company when he was in charge. He also said he had bought the car for £22,500 because it was a bargain.

In total, French claimed £20,779 in benefits he was not entitled to between March 2007 and April 2009.

Audrey Archer, defending, said: ‘He is sincerely apologetic to the relevant departments for failing to declare the sums of money that were going to his Nationwide and his HSBC account.’

Recorder Adrian Hughes QC said: ‘In my opinion the offence is so serious that neither a fine alone nor a community sentence can be justified for this.’

French has so far repaid more than £3,500 of the money he claimed. He was also ordered to pay £200 in costs.