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Benefit fraud couple ‘too ill to cook’ were running cafe

Press Release   •   Sep 12, 2014 22:19 BST

A couple who claimed they were too ill to cook their own meals were actually running a cafe – and he delivered Chinese takeaways using her mobility car.

Caroline Banks and Carl Bradsell had been fraudulently claiming benefits for more than five years before investigators from Bury Council and the Department of Work and Pensions finally brought them to justice.

Between them, the duo had pocketed an astonishing sum of £136,000. They were both given prison sentences at Bolton Crown Court today (Friday 12 September) after pleading guilty to 24 charges at an earlier hearing on 3 February 2014.

Banks and Bradsell had claimed that their ailments were so bad they couldn’t even cook themselves a meal. But fraud investigators found they were in fact running Riscatti’s Café on Bury Market.

Banks (aged 42), formerly of Chaffinch Drive, Bury said she was unable to walk unaided and used a wheel chair to get about. She stated she required daytime supervision, help with going to the toilet and someone to cut up her food. Her long list of illnesses included a prolapsed disc, angina and depression.

Her home had even been adapted with a stair lift and a wet room. Banks was claiming large sums in benefits from both Bury Council and the DWP for Disability Living Allowance, Employment Support and Housing Benefit among others. She also had a mobility car to allow friends and family to take her about.

The council took up the case following a tip-off from a member of the public and a multi-agency investigation was launched. Banks was filmed working long days on her feet and serving breakfasts and lunches in a busy café. The CCTV footage showed her carrying tables and chairs and walking with heavy shopping bags. Investigators even witnessed her walking in high-heeled shoes.

Bradsell (also aged 42) rented the council property next door to Banks’s home and also worked in the café. In truth they both lived in Banks’s specially adapted home and Bradsell sublet his own home to his brother, thus depriving a family in need of his three-bed semi-detached council house.

Bradsell claimed he suffered from epilepsy and depression and stated that he had not worked since March 2005. He claimed that his epilepsy was so bad he had a fit every two days or so and regularly suffered panic attacks and would at times wet himself. He said he always needed to have someone with him. It was claimed that his condition prevented him from driving and he used a microwave because he was afraid of using the cooker due to the severity of his fits.

Yet Bradsell was observed driving Banks’s mobility car to and from the café, cooking in the kitchen and, in the evenings, he even worked using the mobility car to deliver food for a local Chinese take-away.

The court heard that Banks, now of Hills Court, Bury following her eviction from the Chaffinch Drive council house, had wrongly claimed £62,848 in benefits. She was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment. Bradsell, of Chaffinch Drive, Bury, had wrongly claimed £73,975 and was sentenced to 19 months imprisonment.

They are both required to repay the overpaid benefits.

Councillor Sandra Walmsley, cabinet member for resource and regulation, said: “Benefit fraud is not only wrong, but it’s unfair on the taxpayer and on genuine claimants.  

“This was a deliberate and breathtaking act of fraud, carried out over a long time and involving huge sums of money. Thanks to the determined efforts of our investigators, Bradsell and Banks have finally been brought to justice.

“We will continue to take action against those who abuse the system. If anyone suspects benefit fraud in their neighbourhood, please call the hotline on 0800 328 6340.”

ENDS

Press release issued: 12 September 2014.