A disabled benefits cheat who falsely claimed almost £77,000 will miss his wedding in five weeks’ time after being jailed for 16 months.
Barry Firmager, 47, will also lose out on the Caribbean honeymoon he booked for September after fraudulently claiming disability living allowance and other benefits, despite taking part in a 100-mile charity walk.
His lawyer told Maidstone Crown Court that Firmager, who suffers from a degenerative bone disease, didn’t finish the walk for Kidney Cancer UK because it worsened his arthritis.
But the fraudster was jailed after it emerged that he’d failed to report a change in circumstance that made him ineligible for benefits he was previously entitled to.
Firmager’s father paid for the honeymoon, despite the benefits cheat owing him £40,000, but his wedding to Maida Watts (pictured) has been put on hold
Firmager was awarded £200,000 in compensation in 2006 after a traffic accident.
But the 47-year-old, who walks with a stick, failed to notify the Department of Work and Pensions and Medway Council in Kent of the change to his financial circumstances.
Instead, he used the money to buy a UK property, which he rented out to tenants, and a house in Florida.
This meant for six years he was fraudulently claiming income support, employment and support allowance, disability living allowance and council tax benefit.
When he was exposed, he blamed the pain and distress of his 2002 traffic accident for not revealing his payout.
Firmager’s defence said he didn’t finish the 100-mile charity walk because it worsened his pre-existing medical condition, after his participation was questioned by prosecutors
He even turned on his ex-wife, who filled in the claims forms for him, blaming her for his failure to report the compensation.
Firmager, formerly from Rochester in Kent but now living in Williton, near Taunton in Somerset, pleaded guilty to four offences of failing to notify a change in circumstances after fraudulently claiming £76,743 in benefits.
Judge Heather Baucher told him his fraud was so serious he couldn’t be spared jail, after the father took part in a 100-mile cancer charity walk in memory of his late mother and was seen visiting a gym while fraudulently claiming.
Barry Firmager didn’t report a £200,000 compensation payout to the DWP
She said she couldn’t impose a suspended sentence, even though it meant derailing his wedding and alternative care being found for Firmager’s father, who was previously looked after by the defendant.
Firmager was told he should have given the court proceedings ‘priority’ over his wedding plans.
‘You were interviewed in 2014 about these matters and although your committal for sentence by magistrates post-dates the wedding booking, you should have had these matters at the forefront of your mind before you set about making your wedding plans.’
The court heard the honeymoon had been paid for by Firmager’s father despite the benefits cheat already owing him £40,000.
Other debts Firmager racked up include £45,000 on credit cards and £2,000 in relation to child tax credit.
Mary Jacobson, defending, said the US property has since been repossessed and the UK house was sold four years ago.
She said his gym visits were made on medical advice to assist recovery from knee replacement surgery.
Miss Jacobson added that his health had since continued to deteriorate and he currently needs help to wash, dress and use the toilet, for which his fiancee receives carer’s allowance.
A confiscation hearing will be held at a later date.