Turns out the “travel bug” isn’t an acceptable disability claim, as British writer Tracy Johnson as discovered.
Johnson claimed she was agoraphobic (afraid of public spaces) to the point that she couldn’t walk or leave her home and received £50,000 (CAD$92,000) in disability benefits. However, court documents show she was running her own tour company in Argentina.
Johnson also allegedly spent four months travelling through India, shopping in New York and enjoyed a sunshine break in Spain.
“Tracy Johnson was living the life that honest, decent, hardworking tax payers could only dream of.,” Prosecutor Joanna James said. “While workers were going out to do their daily grind she was shopping in New York or having a few days in Madrid.”
Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court, in Wales, also heard Johnson had set herself up as a wedding photographer while she was in Argentina.
Forms Johnson allegedly submitted to the authorities claimed she needed emotional and physical support every day. She claimed a friend cared for her on a daily basis, spending all her time in her bedroom where she felt ‘safe’.
She also claimed she suffered depression, hallucinations, anxiety, blackouts and post traumatic stress disorder, and could not walk more than five metres without help.
Johnson, 52, was caught after an anonymous tip-off about her alleged worldwide travels and was out of the country when authorities tried to contact her. She was arrested when she tried to renew her benefits claim last June on her return from India.
“She asked for them to be backdated and even persuading a community nurse to complete the form on her behalf. It was absolute, blatant dishonesty,” James told the court.
The trial is ongoing.