A CHURCHGOING businessman defrauded an insurance company out of up to £34,000 by claiming he was unable to work.

Richard Moore, who runs the successful Victoria Hotel in Walshaw with his wife, Lisa, had been employed as a manager at Marks and Spencer in Bury.

But Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester heard how Moore, who suffers from mental health difficulties, lost his job on October 28, 2013 and nine days later legitimately submitted a claim to insurance company Aviva on an income protection policy he had been paying into since 2007.

However, when he found new work as manager at Aldi in Bury in November 2014 and then at Morrisons in Nelson, he continued to tell Aviva that he was too unwell to work due to anxiety and depression.

Bury Times: Richard and Lisa Moore from the Victoria collecting their award from Lord Kennedy (centre right) and Toby Perkins MPRichard and Lisa Moore from the Victoria collecting their award from Lord Kennedy (centre right) and Toby Perkins MP

Julian Goode, prosecuting, said that he was to identify the state of his health in a review document.

"The getting worse box was ticked," said Mr Goode.

The payments were due to last until 2050 and, if he had not been caught, could have gained £413,000. But insurance investigators became suspicious when they saw articles in The Bury Times about Moore and the success he was having at the pub, which was named North West pub of the Year in Parliament earlier this year after being nominated by Bury North MP James Frith.

"Surveillance was conducted. That surveillance showed this defendant working behind the bar at the Victoria Hotel. He was seen tending to customers, dealing with the general public, taking food orders, carrying food to the tables and setting up tables."

The court heard that, when contacted by Aviva, he offered to pay back the money and, when he was charged with fraud my making false representation, 33-year-old Moore, of Walshaw Road, Bury, pleaded guilty.

Mukhtar Hussain QC, defending, stressed that Northern Ireland born Moore is of previous good character but had developed mental illness and suffered a "devastating" car accident.

He added that when Moore first made his claim there was a delay of several months in starting to pay him and, because he was not confident that he would keep any new employment, he did not inform Aviva when he found a new job. Mr Hussain said that Moore had not used the money for a luxury lifestyle and is now "upset, embarrassed and ashamed" of his behaviour.

Bury Times:

The court was told that Moore, who has a young daughter and a stepdaughter employs 25 people and "makes a positive contribution to the community". "He is a trustee of a local school, he is a youth leader at the church he attends regularly and member of the local parish church council," said Mr Hussain.

Judge Angela Nield sentenced Moore to 14 months in prison, suspended for 18 month and ordered him to do 100 hours of unpaid work plus 15 days of rehabilitation activities.

She said: "The cost and inconvenience of the investigation of offences of this nature, the high reliance on the honesty of those who claim from policies of this type, but also the cost to other policy holders in terms of premiums being increased, etc, all make this a serious matter."

Speaking after the hearing Detective Constable Kevin Carter, who led the investigation for the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department of the City of London Police, said: “Moore took full advantage of the financial support provided to him by his income protection insurance policy from Aviva.

"He worked multiple jobs across several years, without ever notifying his insurer, and was even brazen enough to take ownership of a hotel and pose for pictures with awards for the regional press.”

“It’s clear that Moore had no intention of stopping, and would’ve gone on to fraudulently claim an even greater sum of money, if not for the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department’s joint investigation with Aviva, which exposed his lies and ensured he was brought to justice.”

Jacqueline Kerwood,from Aviva, added: “We are pleased with today’s sentencing, which highlights the severity of Mr Moore’s actions in deceiving Aviva in an attempt to claim more than £400,000.

"Aviva soon realised Mr Moore had not been forthcoming with his various jobs, and our investigation and referral to IFED brought an end to his audacious scam.

"Today’s sentencing makes the point that insurance fraud is a crime and if you commit insurance fraud, it is very likely you will be caught and prosecuted – as Mr Moore has learned the hard way."