A married couple have been jailed for a seven-year benefit scam which saw them pocket £188,000 in public money and invest it in property.

Nicole Mwamba, 48, and William Kapuya, 47, of Campbell Road, Caterham, were on Monday sentenced to 30 months and 14 months respectively after cheating taxpayers out of "a colossal sum of money" in fraudulent claims between 2004 and 2011.

Mwamba falsely claimed housing and council tax benefit from Croydon Council, who she told she lived in Langdale Road, Thornton Heath, when in fact she owned two properties in Beulah Grove, Selhurst, and Campbell Road.

She told Tandridge District Council she was a tenant of the house she owned in Caterham and invented a landlord named Nikole Kapuya, as well as posing as Belgian national to claim further housing benefit. 

Kapuya falsely claimed benefits from Croydon Council, who he told he lived in Ferndale Road, South Norwood, before moving to Partridge Knoll, Purley, after asking to be rehoused. 

In fact, he was living in Caterham with his wife. 

Kapuya, who suffered kidney disease, also falsely applied for a severe disability premium from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), who he told he did not live with his partner.

Mwamba was found guilty of three counts of fraud, five counts of making a false representation, and three counts of  failing to notify of a change in circumstances. Kapuya was convicted of five counts of fraud and two counts of making a false representation.

Councillor Simon Hall, cabinet member for finance and treasury, said: "This fraud was only exposed following a very complex investigation, so it is a credit to all involved in the prosecution for bringing this case to a successful conclusion.

"These two individuals cheated the taxpayer out of a colossal sum of money by claiming they were single people with no sources of income or capital.

"It serves as a lesson to other fraudsters out there that you will be caught, and made to pay back the benefits you have illegally claimed."

The couple were prosecuted jointly by Croydon Council's anti-fraud team, Tandridge District Council and the DWP.