Benefit cheat jailed after footage exposed ‘ridiculous’ lies

A benefits cheat has been jailed after claiming to be unable to walk unaided – but was filmed shopping in a supermarket.

Ann Hooper collated £33,000 of benefits by making false claims, not only for herself, but for her two adult sons – one of whom was photographed pulling his motability car with a rope outside a gym.

Hooper claimed that her two sons were unable to get out of wheelchairs, but evidence in court showed one walking a mile and the other enjoying adventure holidays in Canada.

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Hooper, 49, from Axminster, was jailed for nine months at Exeter Crown Court, where a judge told her that she was ‘fundamentally dishonest’ and that her attempts to lie her way out of trouble had been ‘ridiculous’.

The family all claimed disability or personal independence benefits for three years until they were caught by a surveillance operation mounted by Department of Work and Pension investigators.

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Hooper was spotted shopping at a supermarket in Axminster on days before and after she had an assessment on her level of disability at her home.

She told the nurse carrying out the test that she had such poor mobility she could not get onto a sofa and that she could only walk a maximum of 20 metres with the aid of a stick.

During the trial, the jury was shown videos of 31-year-old Aaron lifting heavy weights at a gym in Chard and walking unaided through Axminster with a guitar slung on his back.

There was footage of her son, Ryan, aged 23, walking around the Honiton Show for more than an hour with only a mild limp and social media posts showing him standing in minus 16 degree temperatures. He had also flown to Taiwan on another holiday.

Both brothers were filmed secretly wandering around the back balcony of their home with no visible disability.

Her other son Aaron was a regular gym-user who featured in an Instagram post in which he demonstrated his strength by pulling his taxpayer-supplied Motability car across the car park on a tow rope.

Hooper, of Bonners Glen, Axminster, denied three counts of benefit fraud but was found guilty by a jury at Exeter Crown Court last month.



Ann Hooper was spotted walking without aids in a supermarket

Judge Timothy Rose, who told her: “You must have known the claims were untrue and dishonest and you failed to correct that.

“It spanned two years or so in a way which was so fundamentally dishonest that it is almost impossible to know where to start. The claims were demonstrably untrue.

“You proceeded to lie throughout the trial as if you were ignoring the reality of the situation. You lied extravagantly to the jury. It was ridiculous.”

Hooper told the jury the claims were genuine and the boys were testing their ability to endure pain when they were filmed.

Mr Barry White, defending, said all three had some genuine disabilities and would have been entitled to some benefits, if not those they claimed.

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