Brighton man admits benefit fraud for not declaring Betty Swollocks drag queen act earnings (From The Argus)
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Brighton man admits benefit fraud for not declaring Betty Swollocks drag queen act earnings
A pensioner illegally claimed benefits while working nights in a gay bar as a drag queen called Betty Swollocks, a court was told.
John Townsend, who has had a double hip replacement and suffers from a heart murmur, entertained the crowds as a cabaret artist at Brighton clubs Poison Ivy and the Queen's Arms.
Despite appearing as heavily made-up Betty onstage, he told council bosses he was unemployed.
Brighton Magistrates' Court was told yesterday the 62-year-old, of Montague Street, Brighton, claimed housing and council tax benefits worth about £6,600.
Townsend admitted four counts of benefit fraud from November 2007, November 2010, August 2011 and September 2011.
Grey-haired Townsend, said to do an “amazing Tina Turner” in online reviews, is popular in the clubs in St James's Street, Kemp Town, and has appeared on floats at Pride.
A fan of Betty Swollocks said online: “Betty has been performing in Brighton for the past 17 years. She performs up to seven times a week.”
Townsend did not attend court in full Betty drag but instead wore a sober pinstriped black suit, yellow tie and black shoes as he faced his punishment, in front of an audience of supporters who sat in the public gallery.
Len Batten, prosecuting on behalf of Brighton and Hove City Council, said Townsend's alter-ego was found out after benefits officers from the council visited both the Queen's Arms and Poison Ivy and saw invoices for Betty's work, signed either J Towns or J Townsend.
Mr Batten said in interviews Townsend “demonstrated a reasonable understanding of the benefit system”.
He added: “He said he did work as Betty Swollocks at the Queen's Arms.”
Poison Ivy employee James Greenaway also confirmed Townsend worked there.
Jenna Threadgold (COR), defending, said Townsend was “not aware” he was committing a crime by working as Betty.
She said: “The work was sporadic at £25 a night, not a substantial amount of money.
“He was homeless living in a hostel. He is extremely remorseful.”
Townsend was ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work, pay £500 costs and will have the amount he illegally claimed deducted from his benefits.
He is still working as a drag queen.
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