A BENEFIT cheat was paid more than £46,000 by failing to declare he was living with a woman who worked for the council he was ripping off.
Kevin McFarlane, of Wilton Gardens South, Boldon Colliery, claimed income support, housing and council tax benefit on the basis he lived alone.
But Newcastle Crown Court heard a tip-off to the council led to an investigation involving surveillance and credit checks at his home which revealed that between 2006 and 2011, he was living with his partner.
The 52-year-old admitted benefit fraud totalling £46,370.
Prosecutor Angus Taylor told the court McFarlane’s claim had started out legitimate but became dishonest when his partner moved in.
Mr Taylor said: “He was claiming benefits from the Department of Work and Pensions and South Tyneside Council as a single man.
“What we say is on June 6 2006 his relationship with his partner would have null and voided his claim to benefits because she, at that particular time, was working full time as a nursery nurse, strangely, for South Tyneside Council, who prosecute in this matter.”
Investigations showed McFarlane’s partner had been paying the television licence and applied for credit cards stating she was living at his address.
Mr Taylor said: “The inquiries included surveillance on the address and it was noted on eight days, randomly selected within a three week period, his partner was seen to leave the address on every single occasion, heading off to work at the school.”
The court heard McFarlane has now taken on a caring role for his partner, who is recovering from cancer and other medical problems, and has started paying the money he owes back.
Judge David Wood told him: “There are lots of people who have just the same sort of problems you do yet they make honest claims.
“It is a sensitive matter for the public.”
McFarlane was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, with supervision and 150 hours unpaid work.
The judge said the jail term could be suspended because of McFarlane’s guilty plea, his previous good character and the support he gives to his partner.