Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Fugitive's Eight Years on the Run Finally at an End

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Fugitive's Eight Years on the Run Finally at an End

Article excerpt

Byline: KATIE DICKINSON Reporter katie.dickinson@ncjmedia.co.uk

AFRAUDSTER who created an "alter ego" while on the run for eight years has been jailed for falsely claiming almost PS100,000 in benefits.

Stephen Bellas was arrested for burglary at a Gateshead home in 2010 - but skipped bail and "seemingly dropped off the face of the Earth".

The 50-year-old avoided detection until February 2016 when he was arrested for breaching his bail conditions. Upon his arrest, Bellas was found to be in possession of a bank card in the name of Peter Foley, who he claimed was a family member.

But an investigation by Northumbria Police and the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) found that while on the run he had been living a double life and claiming benefits using two different identities.

Newcastle Crown Court heard he had created a Facebook account in the name of Peter Foley and duped a number of people into thinking he was his "alter ego", including a woman who he went on to marry.

Bellas received a 12-month suspended sentence in court in 2018 after pleading guilty to the attempted burglary from 2010. A short time later, the DWP contacted police and made their own enquiries into Bellas, who they suspected was claiming benefits using two different identities. Kevin Wardlaw, prosecuting, said in February 2013 Bellas contacted the DWP in London and applied for a National Insurance number for Peter Foley, saying he was from a traveller community background and had been raised by his grandfather.

He then successfully applied for a bank account and disability benefits.

Mr Wardlaw said: "He elaborated on his backstory, saying he was homeless, living on the streets of London and had been the victim of a rape, which caused mental health problems and left him unable to work."

Under the name Foley, he continued to claim employment and disability benefits in the London area until he moved up to Sunderland in 2015. …

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