Woolacombe gift shop owner ‘gambles’ with the benefits system

A PROFESSIONAL gambler has appeared in court after falsely claiming more than £14,000 in council and housing tax benefits.

North Devon Magistrates heard how Timothy Aston failed to declare savings of more than £115,000, money he said came from a series of small gambling wins over a number of years.

Aston, of Rosalie Terrace, Woolacombe, made two separate claims for benefits in 2009, believing incorrectly that he did not need to supply details about the winnings held in an undisclosed Nationwide account.

The gift shop owner was overpaid a total of £14,395.11: £11,902.77 in housing benefit and £2,492.34 in council tax benefit.

Council prosecutor Trevor Blatchford said Aston, 44, told investigators that his biggest ever single win was £1,800 and that he had checked for information about what to declare on the HM Revenue and Customs website.

For the defence, Zara Svensson said the defendant had assumed that because the winnings did not need to be declared for tax purposes, he did not need to declare them when claiming for benefits.

She said: “The internet can be very misleading but he made a huge mistake which he now fully accepts. He pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and has paid back the money in its entirety.”

In handing down a three-month curfew, presiding magistrate Susan Poxon said: “We are talking about a very large sum of money and although it has been repaid to the council, you have cost a lot of people in this court a lot of money.”

The case was one of three benefit fraud cases totalling more than £30,000 in overpayments dealt with by magistrates on Thursday.