‘Homeless’ beggar rakes in $80,000 a year

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 $80,900 a year and living in a $485,400 London apartment.

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 $323 and $485. 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. Commuters who fell for his story said they were shocked to learn they had been duped.

Chris Faversham said: “I definitely gave him money over the years. Probably about 20 pounds. I wonder if I can get that back?”

Wimbledon Magistrates’ Court also ordered Wright to keep his dog muzzled after hearing 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.

Putney councillor 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. “Many people felt intimidated by him and there is some evidence to suggest that he used his dog to threaten and pressure people into handing over cash.”

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