Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Driving while blind

You'd think they noticed him driving up to pick up his welfare checks?

Welfare cheat busted after pretending to be blind for years

SAPPORO -- A Sapporo man was arrested for fraud Monday after he claimed to be legally blind to get a heftier welfare handout for years even though his eyesight was good enough to permit him to have a driver's license, police said.

Shinichi Maruyama's alleged ruse was given away after police started investigating him when the apparently legally blind man filed a complaint with cops saying that he had been "run over by a red car."

Police discovered that although 50-year-old Maruyama was receiving additional payments on his monthly welfare handout because he had been declared legally blind, his eyesight was actually good enough to have permitted him to pass the eye test when renewing his driver's license in October last year.

Maruyama reportedly admits to the allegations police are accusing him with.

Police said Maruyama abused the welfare system by taking advantage of clauses that pay more money to those with disabilities. Police said the specific charge for which Maruyama was arrested involved him receiving about 41,000 yen a month for the period from November 2007 to February as a disability dispensation on top of the roughly 155,000 yen he received as a welfare payment from the Sapporo Municipal Government.

Maruyama is believed to have received the extra payments for the past five years and allegedly pocketed at least 2 million yen more than he should have. He has been living off welfare for the past 10 years.

Police said Maruyama applied to the Shiroishi Municipal Office to recognize him as being legally blind while he was still living on welfare in 1998. He submitted his application with a doctor's certificate saying that he was "almost completely blind." The municipal office approved Maruyama's application, officially recognizing him as legally blind.

In February last year, Maruyama filed a criminal complaint with the police, saying he had been the victim of a hit-and-run accident. But in the statement he gave investigators, Maruyama said he had been struck by a red car. Suspicious that somebody who was not supposed to be able to see could tell the color of a car, police began investigating Maruyama.

Police discovered that Maruyama passed the eye test when renewing his driver's license in Sapporo in October last year. The eye test requires drivers to have visual power of either at least 0.7 with both eyes and 0.3 or more in each eye whereas the level for legal blindness is 0.01 or less.