Online Poker Pro Charged With Benefit FraudSeptember 14, 2009 10:03 am
A Norwich man has admitted to claiming state benefits for the needy despite playing poker for a living online and even winning $49,000 on a single day’s play.
Alan Forsyth, 36, started claiming council tax benefit between October 2003 and June 2007 after he was diagnosed with ME, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and registered unable to work. Despite declaring no savings and just one bank account for the duration of his claim it was found he had an additional two bank accounts at the time of the original claim and that he had opened several secret bank accounts over the years to deposit money into from his online poker endeavours.
The defence argued that Mr Forsyth got trapped by his own success after he started winning at poker but was concerned he hadn’t declared all his original bank accounts. Defence solicitor Ted Bell commented: “He got stuck in his own web of deceit. He did start winning money and more accounts were opened. He was scared it would be backtracked to the original offence.”
Forsyth also claimed that his ME made it difficult for him to fill the benefit forms properly but this explanation was dismissed by the court. Norwich City Council prosecutor, Yvonne Blake, said: “If you have the concentration to play poker to the extent that you can win $49,000 in a single day, you have the concentration to fill out a form.”
Alan Forsyth, who was found guilty of “seven charges of making a false statement” and falsely claiming £3,706 worth of council tax benefit, has already paid the amount back in full and is now faced with £1,400 in additional fines and prosecution costs.
Presiding Judge Howard Gill summed up: “You’ve got seven charges of making a false statement. This took place over a long period of time and was premeditated. There was a risk of substantial loss of money to the tax payer.”