A mum who claimed disability benefits for six years was secretly filmed winning a Gold medal in a Karate contest, a jury was told today.
Fraud investigators claim to have covertly filmed Claire Thomas, 46, doing karate training 3-4 times a week – even though she told benefits chiefs she “could only walk a short distance.”
Gloucester Crown Court heard how Thomas claimed benefits since March 2007, and claimed to suffer from brittle asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Prosecutor Tom Hills said: “In 2013 she won a bronze and a gold regional medal in karate.
“News filtered through to the fraud investigators of the Department of Work and Pensions and between 8th and 17th May surveillance was carried out.
“She was seen wearing her Karate clothes on 23rd May, smoking a cigarette out of a car window, and then attending a Karate class in Brockworth.
“There was then a regional qualifier taking place in Birmingham and she was filmed taking part, winning a medal, and then kissing her husband.”
Investigators saw her walking to and from her car at normal speed and without any sign of difficulty or shortness of breath, he alleged.
Thomas pled not guilty to seven charges of benefit fraud between June 2007 and December 2013. It is alleged that during that time she was paid about £72,000 in benefits she was not entitled to, including £4,256 towards a car because of her immobility.
One of the charges, dated between 6th June 2012 and 3rd December 2013, alleges Mrs Thomas dishonestly failed to notify a change in circumstances: an improvement in her physical abilities.
A DWP fraud investigator said Mrs Thomas initially contacted them in 2005 when she asked for Income Support on the grounds she was single with a dependant child.
She said: “She received DLA Mobility, an award of money that was put towards a mobility car. In 2008 the income support was switched to employment support allowance, because she had provided medical certificates and was classed as disabled.”
The investigator then told the court that during surveillance Mrs Thomas was seen “walking to and from her car without stopping or catching her breath.
“She went to a Karate club at Brockworth, Gloucester, on 23rd May 2013. She was observed wearing Karate whites, smoking cigarettes in her mobility car, and observed walking across the car park to the club.
“She walked across the car park at a quick pace with no obvious discomfort for about 100 yards. We wrote to GKR Karate at Brockworth asking for more details of her involvement.”
The jury were shown an edited compilation of clips from the surveillance period and the investigator said she had been told by GKR that Mrs Thomas trained “three to four times a week.
“She took part in a tournament in Birmingham. We kept surveillance at the event, on 1st June 2013 at Cocks Moors Woods leisure centre.”
The film clips were shown to to the jury, after which Mr Hills asked the investigator: “The medals put around her neck, what were they?”
“They were a gold and a bronze medal” she replied.
She added that at that stage “the benefit was stopped and an overpayment was calculated.”
The trial continues.