A LOTTERY millionaire has admitted claiming thousands of pounds in benefits despite starting a new life in Spain.
Lawrence Candlish, who claims to have spent the £5.5m he won in 1997, pocketed thousands of pounds in state hand-outs while not even living in the United Kingdom.
His sister Melanie Batey, who received a sizeable share of the jackpot, also moved to Spain and continued claiming benefits here.
In total, the siblings received more than £36,000 which they had no right to as Spanish residents.
Now the pair have been given suspended prison sentences after admitting the offences at Newcastle Crown Court.
Candlish appeared in court on crutches having had two hip replacements while Batey, a paraplegic, was in a wheelchair.
The 38-year-old had begun claiming disability living allowance legitimately in 2003 on the basis he was unfit to work. However when he moved to Santa Pola, near Alicante, in 2005, he did not inform the authorities.
Candlish wrote to the Department for Work and Pensions in 2009 saying he had moved to a different address in Gateshead and wanted to change his bank account details to one in his mother’s name.
Susan Hirst, prosecuting, said: “That letter was fraudulent. The defendant had been living in Spain since at least 2005, when he registered as a resident there.
“If he had declared he was not a British resident, he would not have been entitled to the benefits.”
Checks showed he had applied for a new passport in 2008 and gave his address as being in Santa Pola. Candlish was interviewed and admitted he had been living abroad.
Miss Hirst said: “He confirmed he had been living in Spain and said he moved there after he and his family won the lottery. He said he thought he was allowed to live abroad and still claim benefits.”
Batey had started claiming income support and incapacity benefit legitimately in 2003. However, the 39-year-old followed her brother to Spain and also failed to tell the authorities. She registered as a Spanish resident in 2007 after moving to Santa Pola with her husband.
The court heard Batey used to work at Jarrow JobCentre in the child benefits section and so had a good understanding of the benefits system.
Candlish, of Chaucer Close in Gateshead, admitted converting criminal property. The total value of the benefits he claimed illegally between 2005 and 2010 was £13,365.
Batey, also of Chaucer Close in Gateshead, admitted the same charge. She was paid £23,131 which she was not entitled to, between 2007 and 2010.
They were both given nine-month prison sentences, suspended for 18 months with supervision.
Recorder Tim Roberts QC told them: “Both of you, brother and sister, took advantage of the state system of benefits here while abroad in Spain.
“These are serious offences, aggravated by the fact you were living abroad and you both knew what you were doing was fraudulent.”
The pair will face efforts from prosecutors to claw back some of their ill-gotten gains. Candlish has just started paying it back at the rate of £8.10 a week while Batey has handed over £724.
Vince Ward, defending both of them, said they had been misinformed by other ex-pats about their right to continue claiming benefits while not living in this country.
Mr Ward said that after winning the lottery in 1997 the money was split between the family, with Candlish getting £1m, Batey £800,000 and aunts and uncles receiving a share.
Candlish invested in a restaurant in Spain which went bankrupt, while Batey bought a farm which was torched and left worthless. The court heard she cares for her mother and young son, who both suffer from the same disability as her.
Mr Ward added: “They are both remorseful and sorry for not having come clean with the department about their change in circumstances. They were turning a blind eye to the obvious.”
When Candlish scooped the jackpot in 1997 he bought seven houses on the same street for his family. The factory worker was earning just £125 a week at the time.
Last year he moved back to England, claiming his fortune was spent, the bank had seized his Spanish villa and he had abandoned his Irish-themed pub.