A £30,000 housing benefit scam was uncovered when a benefit cheat invented a bogus landlord called Mr Dawn Williams.
Augustina Doku Ntiamoah planned to claim money she was not entitled to, but her scheme fell flat when the blunder was spotted on a form.
Croydon Crown Court heard Ntiamoah who works as a school chef, claimed £30,454.99 she was not entitled to and created a false identity in an attempt to defraud the council.
The 49-year-old of Zermatt Road, Thornton Heath, claimed benefit as a single parent with three dependent children from 2006.
She told Croydon Council she paid rent to a landlord, but fraud investigators discovered the landlord never existed.
A false identity of Dawn Williams was also created to purchase the property in which she had been living.
In 2009, after being interviewed by council officers, Ntiamoah voluntarily withdrew her claim but was still charged.
She pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing, but a jury convicted her of three counts of fraud on March 16.
She was sentenced to nine months in jail for each of the offences to run concurrently, suspended for 12 months.
Councillor Dudley Mead, Croydon Council's cabinet member for finance and resources, said: "Our anti-fraud team can and will prosecute people who cheat a system that is designed to help people in genuine need.
"It is only right Croydon Council works to ensure benefits are paid to those who really need them and not to those who see the system as a lifestyle choice."
To report any suspicion of housing fraud anonymously, contact the council's fraud hotline.
The telephone number is 0800 328 9270 or 0208 760 5645 or email email@example.com