A painter and decorator from Staffordshire has been jailed for 27 months for dodging income tax for three decades and claiming disability benefit despite being fit enough to scale Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Self-employed Robert Johnson, 62, from Tamworth, cheated the public purse out of more than £200,000 by claiming numerous benefits and failing to submit a tax return between 1975 and 2007.
Birmingham Crown Court heard that Johnson was arrested after exposing his fraud by applying to register as a contractor with a construction industry scheme. Investigators also found a certificate while searching his home showing he had scaled the 134 metre-high bridge spanning Sydney's harbour in January 2007, despite claiming to be crippled with arthritis.
Andrew Wallace, prosecuting, told an hour-long court hearing that the main charge against Johnson - cheating the revenue - related to a period between April 6, 1975, and April 5, 2007.
"We say that as of (the later date) the Inland Revenue had been cheated out of £172,000," Mr Wallace said.
Johnson, of Wilnecote, pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to the main charge and five other offences relating to benefit claims.
Simon Ward, offering mitigation, told the court: "He is ashamed of what he has done in relation to the tax and benefit systems in this country."
The defendant - who is set to lose his home to repay some of the money owed to the taxman - stood up in the dock and rubbed the base of his back in apparent pain before he was sentenced.
Judge Peter Carr told him: "In 1975 or thereabout you made the decision to cheat the revenue - that is a position that continued for over 30 years. Imprisonment it must be because the offending is so serious that no other form of disposal can be considered."
Adrian Farley, assistant director of criminal investigation at HM Revenue and Customs, said Johnson had perpetrated a planned and sustained attack on the public purse.
It is estimated that Johnson, who listened to the court proceedings using a hearing loop, failed to pay tax on around £341,000 while running his business, as well as claiming incapacity benefit, disability living allowance, mobility allowance and council tax benefits.
Mr Farley said: "It is particularly distressing that he escalated this fraud by also feigning a serious disability. This shows a blatant disregard and a lack of respect for those with genuine disabilities."