Former council candidate Graham Axford convicted of benefit fraud
A former Croydon Council election candidate has been found guilty of wrongly claiming housing and council tax benefit while failing to declare he had a mortgage.
Graham Axford of Belgrave Road, South Norwood, denied six counts of fraud by false representation in relation to benefits paid by Croydon Council between September 2000 and July 2007, but was found guilty on three counts on Tuesday.
At his trial Croydon Crown Court heard Axford failed to declare he owned a property in Wales which he bought in 1984 and had a mortgage for. He also did not reveal he part owned a farmhouse in Normandy.
As a result he pocketed benefits he should not have recieved.
The 58-year-old hit headlines two years ago after he appeared on an episode of BBC Panorama.
Axford has been in receipt of incapacity benefit after injuring his back in a motorcycle accident in 1995, but an investigation was launched after he was caught sailing his private yacht across the Atlantic Ocean.
The episode which aired in November 2011, showed footage Axford had taken of himself as he tackled dangerous waters sailing 43ft Crumpet Too from America to the Azores.
After he appeared on national television, the Croydon Guardian revealed he had also participated in a national bike race lasting 24 hours.
He has never faced charges over his receipt of incapacity benefit.
At his housing and council tax benefit trial Croydon Crown Court heard Axford was accused of receiving a housing and council tax benefit overpayment totalling £37,670.18.
Axford, who stood for election as a Liberal Democrat councillor in Upper Norwood ward in 2010, repeatedly failed to declare the properties on claim forms between 2000 and 2003, the court was told.
When visited by a council officer in 2006, he made no mention of the two properties or the mortgage and they were not mentioned on a change of address form submitted in 2007, the jury was told.
Axford claimed the mortgage on the property in Abertillery, Gwent, was paid for by his wife, despite being in his name.
He said a second loan taken out against the property was also paid to his wife and used to fund improvements to their house in France.
Axford was found guilty of two counts of failing to declare the two properties and that he was paying a mortgage on housing and council tax benefit change of address forms.
He was also found guilty of one charge of fraud by false representation in relation to the housing benefit and council tax benefit claim form. He was found not guilty of three counts of the same charges.
Axford will be sentenced on March 14.