The popular BBC1 presenter of Rogue Traders Dan Penteado, which features on Watchdog, has been given a 12 week jail sentence after he admitted to committing £24,000 of benefit fraud. The presenter, who teams up with Matt Allwright to expose unscrupulous and fraudulent tradesmen on the BBC programme, admitted to eight offences of dishonestly or knowingly claiming housing and council tax benefits at Bournemouth Magistrates’ Court today. And whilst the judge took into consideration his good character, he said a custodial sentence was inevitable. The 40-year-old’s solicitor Terrence Scanlan told Bournemouth Magistrates’ Court he committed the fraud from 2008 to 2012 as he was on a short-term contract with the BBC and made the “very poor judgment not to interrupt the flow of housing benefit”. Penteado was caught out when he worked in Bournemouth and a local housing benefit officer recognised his unusual name and looked into his application a little further.
Bournemouth Borough Council had sent several letters of enquiry to Penteago asking him to respond to the allegations but he failed to answer any. Eventually a court date was made for him to appear before magistrates and Penteago failed to appear for this. Dorset police then applied for an arrest warrant at Bournemouth Magistrates’ Court last month. Before he was arrested however, Penteago handed himself into the police station and told officers it was all a ‘misunderstanding’. In court today, it was alleged that Penteado, who also works as a private investigator, falsely claimed that he was a full-time student with a family in order to receive tax benefits between 2008 and 2012. He also failed to declare earnings from Rogue Traders, which apparently ranged from £6,000 to £16,000 during the four years he claimed benefits.
Chairman of the bench John Corben addressed Penteado in court, saying, “This is not a victimless crime, it is actually a crime of stealing from the public purse. It was planned over four years and it was calculated and we consider it so serious that only a custodial sentence is appropriate – you knew exactly what you were doing. You will be sentenced to 12 weeks in prison and it will not be suspended.” Earlier in the hearing Mr Scanlan told the court that Portuguese-born Penteado was a man of good character but was ‘sinking in debt’ and actually owed £20,000. Mr Scanlan added, “He is a man who has always worked hard, trying to improve himself and his circumstances. He is married, he has children, two young children – twins aged nine.” Mr Scanlan explained that Penteado first applied for benefit in 2007 when he was a student at Bournemouth University, and told the court that in March 2008, the BBC contacted him and invited him to return to the programme he had previously worked on, Rogue Traders. “Between March 2008 and September 2011 he had a series of short-term contracts. There was no continuous employment – a few days every month. It was this uncertainty of work that fed into his decision not to interrupt the flow of housing benefit – that was very poor judgment by him. This was not a man who was living extravagantly. He and his family were living quite frugally.” Mr Scanlon said that Penteago had now ‘lost his burgeoning career in broadcasting and that itself is quite a punishment for him’.
Penteado, who appeared dazed, was dressed in a black jumper, black trousers, black tie and white shirt was escorted to the cells by two security guards. According to the BBC website, Portuguese-born Penteado started working with Mr Allwright in 2001 and has been an integral part of Rogue Traders and Watchdog since then. A spokesman for the BBC today said, “In light of the prosecution, Dan Penteado will not be returning to Rogue Traders.”