Embezzled £50k in benefits

A WELL-off man from Lerwick pled guilty to embezzling almost £50,000 in benefits when appearing at the town’s sheriff court on Wednesday.

Neil Wishart, of Cheyne Crescent, admitted making false statements about his financial situation when applying for employment and support allowance, as well as housing benefit, back in 2013.

The court was told that over a five-year period the 54 year old had fraudulently obtained £36,506.72 from the Department for Work and Pensions and a further £10,880.52 from Shetland Islands Council.

Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie said Wishart was “a relatively wealthy individual” who had lots of money in the bank.

He said the man’s actions were clearly deliberate and moved for the Crown to confiscate the embezzled sum from Wishart.

Defence solicitor Tommy Allan suggested that the case was slightly more complicated as it had a number of unusual components including his client’s compulsion for hoarding.

The case was adjourned until 20 June to allow social enquiry reports to be completed. The court will discuss the fiscal’s confiscation motion on the same date.

Meanwhile, Lerwick Sheriff Court heard two more embezzlement cases on Wednesday morning.

Lerwick man John Francis Smith, of Lovers Loan, admitted having knowingly not notified the Department of Work and Pensions that he had inherited three properties valued at £340,000 and that he was no longer entitled to receive employment and support allowance of £10,679.98 between March 2016 and August 2017.

The court also heard that Smith received £2,400 every eight weeks in rental payment for two of the three properties.

The 55-year old was given two months to sort out his chaotic lifestyle and repay the money to the Department for Work and Pensions before returning to the court for sentencing in early July.

A third case saw Sandra Pearson, with an address at Scorguie Drive, Inverness, admitting resetting the sum of £11,000, money that had been dishonestly appropriated by embezzlement.

The 53 year old had taken the money from a dormant charity account to fund a temporary cash flow problem she encountered while moving from Lerwick to Inverness and setting up a new business.

Defence solicitor Gregor Kelly described the offence as a “technical breach” rather than a sophisticated scheme. The court heard that the money was repaid, “plus a little extra”, after the police investigation.

Sheriff Ian Cruickshank deferred sentence until 6 June for reports to be prepared.