A benefit cheat who was paid almost £38,000 in incapacity benefit over a nine-year period worked for 78 companies as a market researcher earning between £400 and £1,400 a month, a judge heard yesterday.
Peter Thomas (59) offered to repay the money at £50 a month over 60 years but a judge at Stafford Crown Court jailed him for 15 months.
Thomas, of Longfield Close, Amington, Tamworth, Staffordshire, pleaded guilty to 12 specimen charges of making false statements to obtain £37,850 incapacity benefits between March 1995 and November 2003.
He asked for 24 other offences to be considered. Stefan Kozolynski, prosecuting, said Thomas claimed incapacity allowance after losing two fingers as a result of a circulatory disease.
"He had to declare all changes in his circumstances and during that time he had been involved in the market research industry and worked for 78 companies.
"He had been extremely active throughout that period." Jenny Josephs, defending, said: "He was incredibly naive. He was working and did not think to declare his income. He pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and co-operated with the authorities.
"He is not a professional fraudster.
"He has offered to repay the money at £50 a month.
"He is terrified of prison and is extremely remorseful."
Recorder Jeremy Cousins told Thomas: "Over a substantial period of time you made a series of false claims. In this case there is nothing which enables me to say that a custodial sentence cannot be avoided. Prison is the only way of dealing with this case."