Prison for man who pretended to be his dead brother

We have all heard the various stories circulating in the media about identity theft. It is one of the biggest growth areas for criminals, as we share more and more of our personal information online. However, a man in Devon has taken the concept to a new extreme, stealing the identity of his deceased brother in order to defraud the benefits system to the tune of £100,000.

The man with multiple identities

Robert Lewis is a 61 year old from Honiton in Devon, and is no stranger to the court system. Under his previous name of Norman Hill, he had a long record of prior convictions, mostly for dishonesty and acquiring money by deception. However, his latest criminal activities took things to a new level.

Lewis, who had changed his name by deed poll, clearly had something of an identity crisis. He was found to be in possession of four different identities, but the most shocking was that of his half-brother, who passed away in 2005.

Lewis was already claiming benefits legitimately in his own name when he submitted an additional claim in his late brother’s name for housing benefits, disability living allowance, employment support allowance and personal independence payments.

In addition to using his late brother’s identity, Lewis also pretended to be Robert Shales, and presented a variety of fraudulent claims in that name between 2011 and 2016. Prosecuting, Nigel Wraith from Colleton Chambers in Exeter said that Lewis had been in possession of at least four different sets of identity documents.

Sophisticated offences

Lewis appeared at Exeter Crown Court, where he pled guilty to six counts of fraud by false representation. Judge Timothy Rose sentenced him to two years and eight months in prison and described Lewis as having carried out a: “sustained campaign of dishonesty” in which he committed: “sophisticated offences [that] required significant planning and groundwork.”

He also remarked that the lengthy time over which the offences had taken place and the fact that they were out and out fraudulent from the word go only served to exacerbate the matter, and were contributory to Lewis being handed a custodial sentence.

Defending solicitor Emmi Wilson told the court Lewis “has started to repay” the money, which amounts to just over £97,000 in total.

DWP Cracking down on fraudsters

The case of Robert Lewis is one of a number of high-profile benefit fraud cases to have been reported in national news over the past few weeks. Given the money involved, the fact that this was clearly an intentional attempt to defraud the system and the additional aspects relating to the identity fraud aspects of the case, it is easy to see why the judge handed down such a harsh sentence.

However, at Hylton Potts, we are well aware that most cases of benefit fraud are far less clear cut. The majority of people facing these kinds of accusations are not career criminals like Robert Lewis, they are everyday individuals and families who have either made a mistake in the disclosures they made to the DWP or who were driven by desperation to make a bad decision in those disclosures.

Whatever your circumstances, just remember that one thing we don’t do at Hylton Potts is sit in judgement. So if you are facing investigation by the DWP or HMRC, get in touch and let us take a look at your circumstances.

You can give us a call on 020 7381 8111, or email us at and a member of our friendly and knowledgeable team will be pleased to help you achieve the best possible outcome.

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