A FORMER Sonning couple have been ordered to pay more than £1,000 after falsely claiming £16,000 in benefits.
Michael Plumridge, 67, admitted eight charges of dishonestly claiming money from the Department of Work and Pensions and Wokingham Borough Council.
His wife Sylvia, 68, pleaded guilty to six charges of making dishonest claims from the council.
The pair, formerly of Little Glebe, both admitted to one charge of fraud in order to obtain a council house.
In 2010, the authorities discovered the couple had claimed pension credit, housing benefit, council tax benefit and a council house without declaring Mrs Plumridge’s NHS pension.
They also failed to declare that Mrs Plumridge owned a villa in Spain, which they had been living in before returning to the UK.
As a result, they were awarded £16,003.62 of benefits and the house for which they were not eligible.
After admitting the fraud at Reading Magistrates’ Court, the pair were sentenced to a 12-month community order with 240 hours unpaid work.
They were also ordered to pay £617.50 each to cover the cost of the investigation and the prosecution.
The Plumridges have agreed to pay the money back to the DWP and the council.
Julie Holland, from the council’s business assurance team, said: “With social housing in such short supply and taxpayers’ money being so tight, it is vital that we make sure council houses and taxpayers’ money only go to those who really need it.
“Every council property that goes to the wrong person on average costs the council taxpayers of Wokingham borough £18,000 more than it should.
“We will continue to go after those fraudsters who think they can cheat the system and get away with it.”