A former council employee has been spared jail after fraudulently claiming more than £36,000 in benefits.
Nicole Kelly, 35, appeared at Croydon Crown Court after pleading guilty to five charges of dishonesty, under the Fraud Act 2006.
A routine benefit-matching exercise found that Kelly, an employee of the council, had told the council’s benefits department that she had no capital or income when, in fact, she owned a property from which she received a rental income.
She received housing and council tax benefits amounting to £36,770.04 for the period 26 September 2006 to 07 March 2011.
Later, Ms Kelly also sold the property for £75,000 but made no effort to pay back what she defrauded from the council.
The judge said that he had no sympathy for Ms Kelly but, because of her young children, she would only receive a sentence of 15 months imprisonment, suspended for two years and a six-month curfew between the hours of 8pm and 5am.
Cllr Simon Hall, Croydon cabinet member for finance and treasury, said: ‘Benefit fraud of this magnitude always comes as a shock; when it’s committed by a member of the council’s own staff, though, the shock and dismay are even greater.
‘But for the diligent work of our fraud investigators, this woman would have profited by more than £110,000, taking into account the profit made on the sale of the property.’
‘That was money that she, in effect, stole from the honest people of Croydon, and we’ll be doing all we can, under the Proceeds of Crime Act, to recover the illegally gained sum for the people that genuinely need it,’ he added.
Ms Kelly was dismissed from her job after the deception came to light.