Former owner of Weston brothel spared jail after claiming £18,000 in disability benefits to pay for lavish holidays
- Credit: Archant
The ex-owner of a Weston-super-Mare brothel wrongfully claimed nearly £18,000 in disability benefits and used the money to fund luxurious holidays.
Natalie Davis admitted dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances for six years from September 2012 to 2018.
Davis ran Butterfly's massage parlour from a first-floor flat in Alexandra Parade since 2007 - while claiming benefits for not being able to walk.
For her involvement with Butterfly's she was sentenced to two years and six months' imprisonment in January after admitting controlling prostitution for financial gain. But she had her sentence reduced to 12 months, suspended for a year, by the Court of Appeal in May.
Davis, of Bristol Road in Hewish, started claiming disability living allowance from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in 1999, as she had ME, chronic fatigue syndrome and asthma.
In 2002, Davis stopped receiving the benefit but appealed the decision, saying she was wheelchair bound and could walk very short distances only if supported by another person and using a stick. Her appeal was successful with another four years of payments granted.
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In 2006 Davis maintained she still had the medical issues, as well as panic attacks, obsessive compulsive disorder, stomach issues and mental health problems, from which point she was awarded mobility disability allowance indefinitely.
Davis, aged 51, claimed she could not walk five metres before the pain became 'unbearable' and was often 'too weak' to get out of bed.
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Recipients of disability living allowance must notify the DWP of any changes in circumstances and Davis had received letters reminding her of her obligations.
In 2007, Davis took over running Butterfly's massage parlour, which police investigated for being a brothel two years ago.
MORE: Police raid Butterfly's.
Undercover surveillance by officers noted Davis getting in and out of cars, walking up stairs unaided to access the building, carrying shopping bags upstairs without using a handrail and having conversations with staff after claiming she 'could not speak to anybody'.
Officers seized a digital camera at her home address and found a number of images of Davis on holidays in Asia, Africa and Spain.
Defending, Nicholas Clough, said: "This was not a fraud from the start, she was entitled when first complaining and renewing.
"The vast medical problems she had fluctuated day to day and reporting any improvement in her mobility had been the last thing on her mind."
Davis was handed a 32-week prison sentence suspended for 18 months at Bristol Crown Court on August 22 and was ordered to undertake 50 hours of unpaid work and pay compensation.