‘Crippled’ benefits cheat is filmed winning motorbike race in Whitby

A BENEFIT cheat who claimed he could not walk was secretly filmed throwing his motorbike around while racing to victory in the British motocross championships in Whitby.

Jake Preston, 20, claimed he was crippled with a rare condition called Syringomyelia, causing him severe pain in his neck and spine from the age of four, Bolton Magistrates’ Court heard.

However benefit fraud investigators followed him at weekends as he took part in motocross races across the UK.

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Preston, who had been racing bikes since the age of 10 and competed in Holland at one point, was filmed winning one race and coming third in another during the British Masters Motocross Championships in Whitby, with the defendant having “quite a talent” at handling the powerful off-road bikes across rough terrain.

He had also taken part in a construction course at Bolton College, getting to his studies in his Vauxhall Corsa, a mobility car, again paid for by taxpayers.

Preston, from Loweswater Road, Farnworth, Bolton, Lancashire, had claimed the higher rate of disability living allowance (DLA), for both his mobility and care needs, getting around £100 per week to pay for his care and fraudulently pocketing £15,128 in total between September 2007 and March 2010.

He pleaded guilty to a single charge of failing to notify the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of a change in circumstance - the improvement in his condition - which would effect his claim.

William Birtwell, prosecuting, told magistrates the higher rate of DLA was for people who need “significant care” both during the day and night.

After Preston turned 16 in 2007, he made the claim for DLA in his own right, filling in the form claiming he could not walk a yard without severe pain and stopping to rest.

He also said he would fall and stumble and had problems going up and down stairs.

However fraud investigators found a “significant disparity” between his lifestyle and his claim form, Mr Birtwell said.

“As a result they discovered this dependent was involved in motocross sports and would compete at weekends, something he was quite successful at doing, he obviously had quite a talent at it.”

Joe O’Conner, defending, told the court there was “no dishonesty” from Preston, as he “relied on the advice of other people” to fill in the form and simply signed it off himself.

Mr O’Conner said although the defendant accepted his claim form “does not accurately reflect his condition” he said his illness was not an invented “flight of fancy” and he had been treated by specialists for his recognised medical complaint since childhood.

However he was brought up being told “not to be a victim” and not let the condition ruin his life, so competing in motocross was one way of battling through the pain, the court heard.

Mr O’Conner added: “He accepts, yes he was fairly successful at it, there was a number of times when he could not do it, pulled out of events. He would suffer for the next day, the adrenaline got him through it.”

Preston was sentenced to a 12-month community order with the requirement to do 250 hours of unpaid work.

He was also ordered to pay costs of £150 at £10 per week and must now pay back the benefit payments he fraudulently claimed.

Carlton Janson, chairman of the bench, said: “In the future, Mr Preston, when you fill in any forms it will stand you in good stead if you read them first and then you can understand them as well.”

At the same time Preston was appearing at Bolton Magistrates’ Court, his mother, Julie Ann Preston, was at the town’s Crown Court.

The 43-year-old is charged with failing to notify a change in circumstances, relating to her claim for DLA for her son from the age of 11 to 16, between 2002 and 2007, before he had to make his own claim himself as an adult.

No plea was entered by Mrs Preston and the case was adjourned until next Friday.