Wheelchair faker scammed ?1.8 million in disabled grants to fund champagne lifestyle
PUBLISHED August 31, 2012
A benefits cheat who pretended to need a wheelchair used £1.8 million of grants to fund a lifestyle of scuba diving, penthouses and top of the range cars.
Barry Brooks, 49, claimed he could hardly walk - but was ordered to stand for sentence by the judge told him and a co-defendant: "You purported to be champions of the disabled but you have been their enemy."
Brooks had set up a sham business pretending he was helping disabled people get work then claimed grants to help him work - stating he was unable to climb stairs, had to use an electric wheelchair, and could not lift anything heavier than a sandwich.
But in reality the self-styled knight who called himself Sir Barry used the Access to Work grants of £29,000 a month to buy five properties in the UK, a penthouse apartment in Spain and high value cars including Jaguars, a Rolls Royce, and some of the world's most powerful motorbikes.
Brooks left his wheelchair at the door of the dock today and entered court using a zimmer frame after the judge had warned him he would consider it a contempt of court if he turned up in it.
Judge Martin Beddoe, who forced Brooks to stand saying he was "perfectly capable", said: "This was a brazen, callous, sophisticated and entirely parasitical fraud."
Brooks personally claimed £1million through the Access to Work Scheme for taxis to the office, support and equipment and a further £880,000 through claims on behalf of other 'employees'.
The monthly claims were submitted by Derek Arnold, 55, named as a co-director of the company, who described himself as Brooks's "sexual playmate".
Both Brooks and Arnold were jailed for eight years today.
Judge Beddoe said: "Neither of you helped those you claimed to, instead you betrayed them to satisfy your greed, greed that was expressed in fancy living, expensive holidays, a fleet of expensive cars, a number of houses, and a motorcycle business all propped up with the money you were stealing from the state.
"You purported to be champions of the disabled but throughout this period you have been their enemy, encouraging suspicion by what you did rather than succour. You eroded public trust in a systematic way and have made it harder for genuine claimants to get the help they need."
Brooks was put under surveillance at the end of 2009 and a search of the Bromley house he and Arnold shared revealed photographs of the pair holidaying together - including Brooks diving around a wreck in Gran Canaria, playing ball games in a swimming pool and driving a high-powered Suzuki.
The raid also uncovered £50,000 in cash, three Jaguars - a convertible, a saloon and a coupé - several Suzuki Hayabusa motorbikes, an Audi Cabriolet, a Mini, a Range Rover, taxi receipts, a high value wine collection, a newly fitted kitchen and gym membership.
There was also evidence he planned "build an empire" of fraud offices across the UK and purchase a country pile, homes in the Caribbean, property in Florida and Duncraig Castle in Scotland.
Brooks ran a motorcycle shop and toward the end of 2011 the "advanced diver" was running a pub.
Medical experts concluded he was "malingering" and making up his disabilities.
He claimed he wore a support enabling him to walk - but nothing of the sort was ever found.
Judge Beddoe noted that the only evidence of injury was minor whiplash in a car crash in the 90s and the rest was a "sham" he ran because he believed "the system was a cow to be milked".
He said: "You do not expect someone to pretend to be disabled and were it not for the enormous sums you have managed to steal from the state the pretence would be inexplicable, but steal from the state you did.
Architect Stephen Isaac, 54, appeared alongside the ex-lovers in the dock after admitting conspiracy to defraud. He pretended to be an employee so they could claim £300,000 on the grounds both his feet had been severed and grafted back on.
He too was jailed for two and a half years.
Arnold and Brooks set up the 'Access Audit Corporation' in 2004 to provide training and advice to disabled people.
But it was merely a vehicle for the "cynical fraud" on the Department of Work and Pensions grant and there is "no evidence" that it ever carried out any work, prosecutor Andrew Marshall said.
Once a disabled person finds work they can get grants to assist them in getting to work, with travel whilst and support - and as they were "working" in the AAC monthly claims were submitted on behalf of Brooks other employees.
These employees were disabled people who had been conned into believing they had a job so that Brooks and his team could make false claims for access to work benefits for them for "wicked gain".
Mr Marshall said they "exploited societal concerns for the disabled" so they could claim "staggering amounts of money in order only to fund a wealthy and greedy lifestyle".
He added: "What the evidence has revealed is a wholesale assault on a part of the benefit system that was designed to assist some of the more vulnerable members of our society."
Brooks and Arnold were found guilty of conspiracy to defraud and fraud between January 1 2004 to March 3 2010.
As Brooks was taken down to the dock the judge ordered the prison be passed medical reports so he "should not profit further from this charade of disability" and to put an end to the "quite unnecessary pandering and indulgences".