Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

CHEAT; Benefit Cash Shame of Paralympic Fencing Star Who Earned Thousands Selling Cars

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

CHEAT; Benefit Cash Shame of Paralympic Fencing Star Who Earned Thousands Selling Cars

Article excerpt

A TEESSIDE member of the British Paralympic squad fiddled nearly pounds 5,000 in benefits while he was working, a court was told.

Wheelchair fencer Lee Fawcett, 32, claimed pounds 65 a week disability pay when he earned pounds 170,000 selling cars.

Fawcett, who came 12th at the Beijing Paralympics, had a house on Teesside, a pounds 260,000 home and a timeshare in Florida, and he put in an offer for pounds 525,000 for another UK property.

Copies of his bank accounts showed deposits of almost pounds 8m between February, 2005, and July, 2007.

Papers seized from his home showed he had bought and sold 151 cars in 18 months. Paraplegic Fawcett was arrested last year in a joint operation by South Yorkshire police, Customs and the Department of Work and Pensions.

They were investigating dealing in VAT-free cars supplied to disabled people, said prosecutor Megan Rhys for the Department.

She said that between January 2006 and July last year Fawcett was working as a motor trader buying and selling high quality cars for pounds 170,000 profit.

He made no comment when he was arrested after his home was searched on July 18 last year, Teesside Crown Court was told.

Harry Bowyer, defending, said all Fawcett's assets had been frozen during the investigation and he was likely to lose almost everything.

He added: "When he has finished with these courts he has got to deal with the civil matters raised by HM Revenue and Customs.

"Especially now with the credit crunch he is going to be left in a much more serious state than he would have been.

"He got involved in what he thought was a loophole, which has had a major disruptive influence on him. There has been a bit of it going on. One person bought 60 Range Rovers in two years.

"Most of the people have not been aware that what they thought was legal was in fact not legal. …

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