Bentley-driving benefits claimant jailed for fraud at Croydon Crown Court
A Bentley-driving fraudster who siphoned off money from a dead man's bank account and claimed housing benefit while running a successful restaurant has been jailed for a year.
Stephen Sussams, 59, claimed £14,625 in housing and council tax benefit from Croydon Council while he was the landlord of a gourmet gastropub in Devon.
He concealed the fact that he was landlord of the Royal Dart Hotel, a gourmet pub in the Dartmouth that served £125 champagne and truffle burgers.
Sussams also pocketed £17,600 in carer fees for looking after a man who was dead.
He withdrew the money from the bank account of Keith Dickinson, who had had cared for until he died in August 2008.
Prosecutor Wendy Hewitt said Sussams had breached the trust of his friend Mr Dickinson, who had received council payments to fund his care.
Sussams had withdrawn £4,000 from Mr Dickinson's account the day after he died and helped himself to four more sums of between £3,000 and £4,000 before the council halted the payments in January 2009.
Matthew Groves, mitigating, said Sussams suffered from numerous health problems including type-2 diabetes, arthritis, depression, heart disease and obesity and would suffer more than most in prison.
He pointed to Sussams caring for his friend and helping a heroin addict to turn his life around as evidence of his character.
Mr Groves added: "Dishonesty has been a flaw in his character, but there are considerable aspects of his character that are greatly to his credit."
But judge Peter Gower said: "You had a particular duty to tell the council that the payments were still going into Mr Dickinson's bank account, which were had been placed as the custodian of in trust. You breached that trust and pocketed valuable council resources."
He sentenced to Sussams to 12 months behind bars and told him he would serve six, with a reduction of one month for time spent on remand.