UK

Mark Hawthorn, aka Drag Queen Tilly Of 'Glitter Lips' Jailed For Wrongly Claiming £88,000 Benefits

22/08/2013 13:02 BST | Updated 22/10/2013 10:12 BST

A 49-year-old man who performed on stage as a spike-heeled drag queen, has been jailed for wrongly claiming £88,000 in disability-related benefits.

Mark Hawthorn - better known on the entertainment circuit as one half of duet act Glitter Lips - was jailed for six months for making fraudulent benefit claims between November 2003 and March 2012.

Sentencing him at Stafford Crown Court, Judge Michael Challinor said Hawthorn was guilty of "breathtaking" fraud.

mark hawthorn drag queen tilly

Mark Hawthorn on stage as Tilly from drag queen duo Glitter Lips

He said: "You should have confined your acting ability to female impersonation rather than defrauding the state."

Prosecutors for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said an anonymous tip-off prompted its investigation into Hawthorn's "systematic fraud" of the benefits system.

Trevor Meegan, for the DWP, said he failed to declare his status as "a self-employed drag artiste" despite claiming to suffer a host of health problems which meant he needed help "both night and day".

The judge heard Hawthorn, of Tamworth, was claiming disability living allowance, income support, council tax benefit and housing benefit, and had also failed to pay income tax or national insurance contributions from his on-stage earnings as alter-ego "Tilly".

Hawthorn admitted five counts relating to benefit fraud and non-payment to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs.

Meegan said Hawthorn fully admitted wrongdoing when confronted with the facts of the case.

The DWP's investigation found he had been performing on and off for 25 years, but failed to tell the DWP of a more recent change in circumstances from 2003.

Meegan said Hawthorn claimed the highest level of disability living allowance, stating he was "only able to walk a short distance", suffered from "nausea, moodswings, and headaches" and needed to use inhalers "three or four times every two hours".

These declarations, Meegan added, were directly contradicted by the DWP's surveillance showing Hawthorn at the gym "loading up and lifting weights, using the cross-trainer" and "taking part in step aerobics - sometimes while using dumb-bells".

Hawthorn made his trips to the gym in his Nissan Qashqai, a car provided under the Motability scheme, said Meegan.

His performances in Glitter Lips were also uploaded to video website YouTube, and Facebook entries advertised the act online.