Benefits cheat who pocketed £29,000 of taxpayers’ cash and splurged it on cocaine and holidays was caught out in Facebook photos on a 90ft drop slide at Orlando waterpark, water-skiing and swimming with dolphins
- Neil Filer, 46, falsely said he had diabetes, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis
A benefits fraudster pocketed nearly £30,000 of taxpayers’ money after falsely claiming he had an array of serious medical conditions – then splurged the cash on cocaine and a lavish lifestyle.
Neil Filer was yesterday condemned as ‘brazen’ and ‘shameless’ by Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride and likened to selfish Little Britain character Andy Pipkin, who pretends to be disabled, after he was jailed for 11 months.
Filer told the Department for Work and Pensions he had diabetes, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and right-sided weakness after a heart attack – adding that his health was so bad he could walk only short distances.
The 46-year-old insisted he needed help with washing, bathing, dressing, preparing food, reading and remembering to eat, leading to extensive claims under the Personal Independent Payments scheme.
The handouts are intended so disabled people can pay for assistance to cope with their conditions.
Neil Filer (pictured) pocketed nearly £30,000 of taxpayers’ money after falsely claiming he had an array of serious medical conditions
Filer’s deception was eventually revealed when DWP investigators checked his Facebook page following a tip-off
Meanwhile, on social media he made ‘boastful’ posts about an action-packed holiday to Orlando, Florida, with pictures showing him unaccompanied on a ‘90ft drop slide’ at a waterpark and on a roller-coaster.
Filer also posted pictures from other adventures, showing him water-skiing, swimming with dolphins and climbing Lakeland fells.
His deception was eventually revealed when DWP investigators checked his Facebook page following a tip-off.
Filer, of Kendal, Cumbria, also held down a string of strenuous jobs – declaring no medical conditions other than diabetes.
During his sentencing at Carlisle Crown Court on Wednesday, a judge was told Filer, who pleaded guilty to a single count of fraud, claimed £29,245 over four years and nine months.
Prosecutor Andrew Evans said: ‘The defendant completed forms for PIP on January 21, 2017. He asserted that he suffered from diabetes, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and right-sided weakness following a heart attack.
‘(He) asserted he rarely left the house, could walk no more than 50 metres and sometimes not at all due to tiredness.
‘He said he used a stick to walk, and regularly suffered falls and struggled to negotiate uneven ground.’
Filer told the Department for Work and Pensions he had diabetes, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and right-sided weakness after a heart attack
But just six months after the first PIP claim, he posted photos on Facebook enjoying his Florida holiday.
Mr Evans said: ‘On July 9, 2017, he posted photos of himself apparently unaccompanied on what he said was a ‘90ft drop slide’ at a waterpark, on a roller coaster and walking around theme parks.’
Two months after his Orlando holiday, Filer began working for Asda, helping with online shopping orders, but declared no disability other than diabetes.
He then became a general assistant at a Sainsbury’s store in September 2018, taking a ‘very physically demanding job’ including heavy manual work and lifting.
And in April 2019, he started a ‘strenuous and unpredictable’ job as a grocery delivery driver.
At the same time, Filer posted further, damning social media pictures.
Mr Evans added: ‘Facebook posts throughout the period showed the defendant water skiing, balancing on the backs of dolphins at a waterpark, swimming with the same animals, and various posts of climbing the Lakeland fells.’
Anthony Parkinson, defending, said Filer – said to be from a ‘wealthy family and whose brother is a successful businessman’ – had written a letter of apology and expressed ‘genuine remorse’.
Mr Parkinson explained Filer, whose marriage has broken down since his arrest, wanted to give the impression that he was as successful as his sibling.
He added: ‘There is debt in the background, and a reckless addiction to cocaine.’
Sentencing, judge Recorder Kevin Slack said Filer’s Facebook posts amounted to ‘blatant boasting’ about wealth and success that he wanted others to think he had, dishonestly paid for out of public funds.
He slammed Filer for using money ‘desperately needed by others’ with genuine disabilities.
Recorder Slack said: ‘The nature of this offending – sustained criminal conduct over several years to fraudulently claim benefits so you could show off to others that you were affluent and successful and to fund a cocaine habit – means appropriate punishment can only be achieved by an immediate custodial sentence.’
After the case, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Mel Stride MP, said: ‘Brazen attempts to fleece the taxpayer will get caught out.
‘I welcome the guilty verdict in this case because it acts as a warning to other would-be fraudsters.
‘We are committed to cracking down on those who shamelessly set out to steal from the public purse.’
One local resident added: ‘(There are) shades of Andy Pipkin, the bloke in the wheelchair in Little Britain, pretending to be disabled. Fancy posting damning evidence on social media while making disability claims at the same time. What an idiot!’
The Department for Work and Pensions says it aims to save more than £9 billion over the next five years by cracking down on benefit fraud.
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