UK & World News
Drag Queen Jailed For £85k Benefit Fraud
A man who fraudulently claimed £85,000 in benefits while performing as a drag queen has been jailed.
Mark Hawthorn claimed to be suffering from a range of health problems which meant he needed help both day and night.
In reality, the 49-year-old was performing on stage as part of an act called Glitterlips.
He also made regular trips to the gym, turning up in a car worth more than £20,000 that was provided under a scheme for disabled drivers.
Investigators at the Department for Work and Pensions filmed Hawthorn loading and lifting up weights and using a cross-trainer, contradicting his claims he could only walk "a short distance".
Sentencing him to six months in prison, the judge at Stafford Crown Court said Hawthorn had committed fraud on a "breathtaking" scale.
"You should have confined your acting ability to female impersonation rather than defrauding the state," Judge Michael Challinor said.
Hawthorn, of Tamworth, Staffordshire, wrongly claimed £85,000 in disability living allowance, income support, council tax benefit and housing benefit.
He also failed to pay £3,700 in income tax and national insurance contributions from his on-stage earnings as alter-ego Tilly.
Kate Thomas, defending, said Hawthorn was diagnosed with a "severe illness" and given a year to live by doctors.
It was this condition that led him to make his initial benefits claim, she said.
Ms Thomas told the court her client performed as a drag queen to boost his self-esteem, adding: "It allowed him an opportunity to step out of his life which until recently was horrific and unsettled."
Hawthorn, who admitted making fraudulent claims between November 2003 and March 2012, has already repaid £4,100.