Terry Lee Gardner (pictured) failed to notify of a change in circumstances and has been fined
An obese father who tried to lose more than 20 stone on TV has been convicted of benefit fraud after lying that he could only walk three metres.
Terry Lee Gardner was part of ITV’s Weight Loss Ward in 2012, which tracked him trying to reduce his almost 50 stone weight.
The show followed patients at Sunderland Royal Hospital as doctors tried to address the chronic national obesity crisis.
Until recently, the 35-year-old was in receipt of the highest level of Disability Living Allowance, claiming he could only walk for three metres before feeling discomfort.
But investigators found through surveillance that he could walk a distance of 1.2 miles in about 40 minutes, with only three brief breaks.
The married father-of-three pleaded guilty to dishonestly making a false statement to obtain a benefit and dishonestly failing to notify of a change of circumstances at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court.
Prosecutor Iain Jordan said: ‘This is two offences of benefit fraud relating to Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Personal Independence Payment (Pip).
Terry Lee Gardner was once of the patients tracked in Sunderland on ITV’s Weight Loss Ward when he weighed 47 stone
‘The total amount of overpayment across the two is £8,034.89 and of that £364 is in relation to the Pip and £7,670 for the DLA.
‘Mr Gardner was in receipt of DLA and he described that he had health problems, mobility problems which were down to breaking his ankle and problems with his weight, together with diabetes.
‘He said he could only walk three metres before feeling discomfort and he said he would take a minute to walk 40 metres.’
Mr Jordan added that surveillance teams were sent to investigate Gardner after information was provided that his health may have improved.
Terry Lee Gardner (pictured) was caught walking a greater distance than he claimed to be able to in his benefit claims
In different observations by investigators he was seen walking 30 yards without any assistance, and also 700 yards to and 900 yards from a football stadium.
Gardner, of Houghton, was also seen walking 1.2 miles in a time of about 40 minutes.
Mr Jordan told the court on December 4: ‘He was 47 stone but managed to lose a significant amount of weight. He learned to drive in 2014 and he held a season ticket for Sunderland AFC.
‘He accepted that he had failed to declare the health improvement. It’s not a great deal of money, but it is being repaid.’
The obese benefit fraud (pictured) admitted the charges at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court
Neil Hodgson, defending, told the hearing: ‘I’ve been talking to Mr Gardner and his wife at great length today.
‘He was not a well child who suffered from an IBS-like condition. He had various problems and difficulties.
‘He was always heavy at 20 stone but broke his leg very badly and that laid him up for many, many months.
‘At one point he was 50 stones, down to 47. The claims he made were initially genuine and he did have DLA at the higher rate.
‘He now receives the lower rate and we are where we are with the situation.’
District judge Roger Elsey fined Gardiner £600 and also ordered him to pay a £60 surcharge and £50 in costs.
Mr Elsey said: ‘You have lost your good character. You now have a serious conviction for the offence of dishonesty.’
Weight Loss Ward featured Sunderland Royal Hospital after it became one of the UK’s first wards dedicated to helping clinically-obese patients.
At the time Terry, who had been housebound for a year prior to the documentary, was one of the heaviest patients to be treated at the ward.
Deemed too fat to undergo safe gastric band surgery, he had a gastric balloon fitted, in which a temporary restriction is placed inside the stomach, which reduces food intake.
Terry said his weight began to increase after he married, then in 2007 he broke his leg which affected his mobility.
That, coupled with a diet of kebabs, pizzas and other unhealthy foods, meant his weight spiralled out of control.