Stoke & Staffordshire

Drag artist Mark Hawthorn jailed for benefits fraud

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Media captionMark Hawthorn, who performed under the name Tilly, was filmed exercising in a gym

A drag artist who fraudulently claimed about £90,000 in benefits has been jailed for six months.

Mark Hawthorn, 49, who pocketed £88,000 in benefits from 2003-12, claimed he had back pain and required round-the-clock care, Stafford Crown Court heard.

But officials from the Department for Work and Pensions filmed him in a gym.

Hawthorn, from Tamworth, who admitted five counts of fraud, was a drag artist for 20 years who performed under the stage name Tilly, the court heard.

Hawthorn, who was self employed, performed in the Midlands and abroad and also performed in a duo called Glitter Lips.

'Very fit'

He admitted five counts of fraud between November 2003 and March 2012.

He pleaded guilty to failing to notify the Department for Work and Pensions about a change in circumstances relating to his claims for disability living, income support, and failing to notify North Warwickshire Borough Council in relation to housing benefit and council tax benefit claims.

Image caption Mark Hawthorn admitted five counts of fraud between 2003 and 2012

The court was told he was arrested in May last year after being filmed secretly in January 2012 working out in a gym, disproving his claim he was suffering from back pain, nausea, insomnia.

Speaking outside court, DWP senior fraud officer Sian Fellowes said: "The surveillance showed that he was a member of a gym and he had been for some considerable time.

"He was perfectly able to exercise very robustly within the gym.

"He was using weights. He was doing all the things that you'd expect a very fit man in his late 40s to do."

The judge told Hawthorn that in his performances he was "wearing high-heeled shoes displaying a good deal of physical activity".

He added Hawthorn should have confined his "acting ability to female impersonators rather than pretending to be disabled in order to defraud the state".

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