London

Off-sick athlete guilty of defrauding Newham Council

Matthew Thomas
Image caption Thomas said he hurt his back falling off a ladder

A council worker who took part in athletics competitions while off sick from work with a bad back has been found guilty of defrauding his employers.

Matthew Thomas, 34, of East Ham, east London, competed and held coaching sessions for youths between November 2007 and June 2008.

The Newham Council payroll officer was paid £13, 892.12 while on sick leave.

Thomas was found guilty of seven counts of fraud at Inner London Crown Court.

The jury had been shown video footage of the defendant running while signed off work.

He was caught on camera training youngsters at Croydon athletics track in April 2008 and was filmed again in May 2008 as he practised sprints at Crystal Palace.

He also coached youngsters through the Metropolitan Police's Met-Track scheme before resigning from the role in June 2008.

Free physiotherapy

Rebecca Channon, prosecuting, said Mr Thomas, who had begun working for the council in 1998, called his line manager on 12 November 2007 to tell her that he had fallen off a ladder and hurt his back.

"The very next day Matthew Thomas was able to work as an athletics coach on the Met-Track scheme for a 90-minute session," she added.

The court heard he raced in the Birmingham Athletic Games in February 2008 and the Surrey County Indoor Championships a month later.

In interview he said he was having difficulty sitting down for long periods but insisted his injury had little or no effect on his ability to work as an athletics coach or to participate in athletics events.

He added the reason for participating in athletics competitions was to use the free physiotherapy.

Thomas, who denied all the charges, was found guilty of seven counts of fraud by false representation after he submitted sick notes claiming he was unfit to work.

He was cleared of three counts of fraud by false representation and one count of fraud by failing to disclose information relating to his athletics coaching.

He will be sentenced on 30 September.

Correction 30 September 2010. This story was amended after an earlier version, based on information received by Press Association, stated Matthew Thomas had been found guilty of six rather than seven counts of fraud.

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