Grandmother, 54, who falsely claimed £28,000 disability benefit is taken on Facebook

A grandmother who falsely claimed £28,000 in disability benefits was surprised when she posted photos of herself at several 1950s rock ‘n’ roll themed parties on Facebook.

Cheryl Topham, 54, received Disability Living Allowance and Employment Support Allowance after telling benefits officers she needed a wheelchair and crutches due to her osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome and spondyloarthritis.

Unbeknownst to authorities, Topham underwent knee surgery which improved his mobility – and only used walking aids while re-applying for personal independence payments.

Topham, of Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, continued to claim illegally for two years until investigators acting on a tip filmed her walking unaided through her neighborhood.

They also took to the mother-of-three’s Facebook page which showed her standing without crutches and attending rockabilly dance events.

At Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester, Topham admitted not disclosing a change in circumstances and was given a six-month jail sentence, suspended for a year.

Cheryl Topham, 54, from Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, claimed £28,000 in disability benefits insisting she couldn’t walk, but posted pictures of herself -even dancing at rockabilly events on Facebook.

Acting on a tip-off, benefits officials saw pictures of Topham dancing on Facebook and also filmed the grandmother walking unaided down the street.

Acting on a tip-off, benefits officials saw pictures of Topham dancing on Facebook and also filmed the grandmother walking unaided down the street.

The court heard she started claiming benefits legitimately in 1992 and was awarded the highest rate of DLA in November 1999.

Solicitor John Richards said: ‘The conditions listed on the application were osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, ankylosing spondylitis, right shoulder rotator cuff tear, Tietze syndrome and IBS – which limited all considerably her ability to walk and take care of herself.

“Following her application, she received DLA at the highest rate and later Employment Support Benefit. The ESA was equivalent to an additional £82.05 per week.

“The investigation was triggered as an allegation was made that the defendant’s conditions were not as stated on his forms.”

Monitoring was carried out over a two-week period from September 5, 2019 to September 19, 2019. Video footage was obtained of Topham walking and walking seven times along with mobile monitoring.

“It revealed that the defendant was walking unassisted and was in better shape than she claimed on her forms,” ​​Mr Richards said.

“The only time she was seen using a crutch or a wheelchair was when she attended her PIP assessment.”

Investigators gathered other evidence, including Facebook photographs and a vacation booking.

At Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester, Topham admitted not disclosing a change in circumstances and was given a six-month jail sentence, suspended for a year.

At Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester, Topham admitted not disclosing a change in circumstances and was given a six-month jail sentence, suspended for a year.

When asked, Topham initially stuck to her story, but when shown the footage she explained that an operation in August 2017 had improved her condition. This meant that she was no longer eligible for the benefits she was claiming.

Investigations revealed that she was overpaid by £17,588.60 in DLA and £10,675.10 in ESA between 2017 and 2019.

For the defence, Saul Brody said: “This experience was excruciating for her, but this was a case where the claim had been genuine for at least 18 years.”

“She had knee surgery in 2017 and she recognizes that there has been an improvement. She should have made that clear to the authorities, but she didn’t. She is now in financial difficulty.

Sentencing her, Judge Jon Close told Topham: ‘For about 18 years you had made a perfectly proper and legitimate claim because you had a very limited ability to walk and take care of yourself – but it was your responsibility to report any change of circumstance.

“The system should be built on trust and the money is given to those who need it to look after themselves.

“People are confident they will make the right statements and do the right thing.

Investigations revealed Topham was overpaid by £17,588.60 in DLA and £10,675.10 in ESA between 2017 and 2019

Investigations revealed Topham was overpaid by £17,588.60 in DLA and £10,675.10 in ESA between 2017 and 2019

Video footage was obtained of Topham walking on seven occasions as well as mobile surveillance

Investigators collected other evidence, including Facebook photographs and a vacation booking

Video footage was obtained of Topham walking on seven occasions as well as mobile surveillance. Investigators collected other evidence, including Facebook photographs and a vacation booking

‘You didn’t and it only came to light when surveillance was carried out which found you were walking around unassisted and in better shape than suggested.

“This factor only intensified when you were seen using a crutch or wheelchair on the date of your PIP assessment. Essentially, you were fabricating a story that said you were worse than you actually were.

“But you are someone with significant poor health and on top of that your parents are over 80 and also in poor health.

“You are remorseful and have very little disposable income – a situation which is about to get exponentially worse as you will have to repay these monies.

“You have strong personal attenuation, custody will impact others, namely your parents and you pose no risk to the public. You were given a chance today – I hope you never come back to these courts again.

Topham will also have to undergo ten days of rehab and a nine-month alcohol treatment program.

About Antoine L. Cassell

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