An English man was recently arrested for fraud after he was caught begging for money when he actually made almost $500 a day and lived in a $500’000 house.
Sitting on the pavement next to his dog and sleeping bag, Simon Wright looked to all the world like a homeless beggar.
But what the passers-by who gave him cash didn’t know was that he was earning over $75,000 a year and living in a £460,000 flat in west London.
At the end of every day he would pick up his handwritten sign and head back to his Fulham home. Locals say he regularly went into bookmakers and amusement shops to change up his loose coins.
On many occasions they added up to between £200 and £300. Magistrates have now imposed a two-year Asbo banning him from begging anywhere in London.
PC Oliver Strebel, who brought the case to court, said: ‘He had a reputation for getting a lot of gifts while begging.
‘He used a sign saying he was homeless and people gave him money on that basis, which is clearly fraud. He would take the money from his cup and change it over at a local betting shop or amusement arcade.
‘He worked pretty much every day, and had done so for about three years. He certainly put in the hours.’
Wright proved Putney High Street in south-west London was such a lucrative venue that he attracted up to nine other beggars. Since his arrest, they have all but disappeared.
Wright would sit wearing ragged clothes outside NatWest bank in Putney High Street, near Putney station, with his dog and ask the public for money.
But after a hard day’s begging Wright would pack up his sleeping bag and, instead of heading to a shelter, he would make his way across Putney Bridge to his comfortable flat in Simms Court, Fulham High Street.
Commuters who fell for his bad luck story said they were shocked to learn Wright had duped them.
Chris Faversham, from Putney, said: ‘I definitely gave him money over the years. Probably about £20. I wonder if I can get that back?’
In December 2012 suspicious residents were suggesting that something was not quite right about Wright’s predicament.
Some said he changed up his donations in Greggs in Putney High Street while others said he lived in a tent on Putney Embankment.
But Wright’s days of fleecing the public are over after magistrates slapped an Asbo on him banning him from visiting the SW15 area (Roehampton and Putney) and from begging anywhere in the capital.
Wimbledon Magistrates’ Court, sitting on May 14, also ordered him to keep his dog muzzled and under control at all times in a public place after magistrates were told it had bitten at least one person.
The Asbo will remain in place until May 2015 but if Wright, who admitted fraud and begging, breaches any of its terms he could be sent to prison for up to five years and face an unlimited fine.
The council’s community safety spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said: ‘Anyone who lives, works or shops in and around Putney High Street will be mightily relieved to see this unpleasant individual given his marching orders.
‘He deliberately targeted people making cash withdrawals from this cashpoint and was extremely aggressive and abusive to anyone who refused to give him money.
‘Many people felt frightened and intimidated by him and there is some evidence to suggest that he used his dog to threaten and pressure people into handing over their cash.
‘His behaviour was an absolute disgrace. The fact that he was actually living in a comfortable flat in Fulham, something that many of his victims can only dream of, just adds insult to injury.
‘Everyone who has been appalled by Mr Wright’s behaviour will I’m sure wish to congratulate the Thamesfield Safer Neighborhoods Team, especially PC Oliver Strebel, who was the officer in the case and also the Crown Prosecution Service whose lawyers worked so closely with the police to bring about this very positive result for Putney.’