A Sunday league footballer who claimed £15,000 in benefits because he was ‘too ill to work’ has narrowly escaped an immediate jail term - after fraud investigators filmed him on the pitch.
Raymond Billam, aged 40, won crunching tackles, scored the odd goal and ran several miles in a match.
But according to his claim for incapacity benefit, the midfielder would have been lucky if he could kick a ball.
He claimed he was severely disabled and virtually unable to walk more than 20 metres without falling over due to back and knee problems.
Billam said he needed crutches and other aids to get around and needed somebody with him to make sure he was safe and pick him back up if he fell, a court heard.
Between September, 2008 and April, 2014 he pulled on the green shirt of Ingsfield Lane and two other clubs in the Mexborough and District Sunday League, South Yorkshire playing 87 games in total.
Unknown to him though, fraud investigators secretly filmed his appearances following an anonymous tip-off in March, 2014.
Julie Grant, prosecuting, said of the father-of-three: “Over three consecutive Sundays he was playing football, running, jumping and participating fully showing no signs of discomfort.”
His appearances and goals were even posted on the internet.
“Clearly this is not consistent with somebody unable to walk without aids,” the prosecutor told magistrates at Barnsley.
When arrested Billam said he had ‘good days and bad days’ and he was so well-known in the league that others could have been playing under his name.
But he could not provide investigators with a list of names.
Billam, of Primrose Close, Bolton-on-Dearne admitted defrauding the Department of Work and Pensions by pocketing £15,066.
Chris Peace, defending, said the grandfather of four, had worked as a contractor for Yorkshire Water for 16 years until he suffered a serious back injury in 2006 which needed surgery.
He made a legitimate benefits claim and went from 13 to 18 and a half stones and had problems with drinking and gambling.
“He was in a bit of a state,” said Mr Peace.
Mr Peace said Billam accepted he should have told the DWP he was fit and well and working as a self employed plumber.
He is currently repaying the money.
He was given a 26-week jail term suspended for two years and told to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.
He must also wear an electronic tag for four months while he’s on a curfew order.
A spokesman for the DWP fraud team said: “Billam was very brazen about what he was doing.
“It’s hard to believe someone can think they are entitled to incapacity benefits because they claim they can’t walk far without assistance.
“Yet we observed him on three consecutive Sundays, running around, jumping and heading the ball and putting in some strong tackles.”