Sunderland benefits cheat claimed £80,000 – by lying about his wife

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A BENEFIT cheat who claimed more than £80,000 which he was not entitled to has been spared jail.

Michael Johnston did not tell the authorities that his wife, who was also his carer, had gone back to employment during a 14 year-period between 1999 and 2013.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the 59-year-old claimed benefits for him and his wife including income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit, totalling £82,263.95.

Johnston, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis and has cysts on both kidneys, pleaded guilty to benefit fraud.

Recorder Wheeler gave him full credit for his early guilty plea and also took into consideration the defendant’s health concerns.

Judge Wheeler, said: “A large amount of money has been obtained by you from benefits over a long period of time.

“You were not entitled to benefits when your wife was working.

“You failed to alert the authorities about the change in circumstances.

“I have taken your health issues into consideration and realise that sending you into custody would be a lot more difficult than for someone with a clean bill of health.

Johnston, of Oak Avenue, Houghton, was given a 12- month suspended prison sentence.

Christopher Rose, defending, said: “You cannot say that this man has lived in luxury. He is living in poor living conditions.

“He admits he has been dishonest and said that his situation snowballed.”