Norbury gourmet restaurant owner accused of housing benefit fraud
A businessman living a double life claimed thousands of pounds of benefits in Croydon while running a gourmet restaurant in Devon, a court heard.
Stephen Sussams, 59, is also alleged to have pocketed £17,600 in carer fees as payment for looking after a man who was actually dead.
Mr Sussams, former landlord of the Royal Dart Hotel in Dartmouth, is accused of deliberately hiding his business interests, allowing him to secure nearly £15,000 in housing and council tax benefits.
Croydon Crown Court heard that he was able to claim higher payouts because he also concealed the fact that he shared his council flat in Norbury with his civil partner, Evengy Vasin.
Mr Sussams is said to have told the council that he was the only tenant of the Marston Way property.
He had lived in the flat since 2002 after moving in to work as a live-in carer for Keith Dickinson, who was seriously ill, the court was told.
Mr Dickinson received financial assistance from the council, paid directly into his bank account to allow him to fund his care, the jury heard.
The court heard after Mr Dickinson died on August 28, 2008, the payments did not stop.
This allegedly allowed Mr Sussams to regularly withdraw large sums of money from Mr Dickinson's bank account, often shortly after they had been paid in.
The court heard on September 12, 2008, the council paid £3,552 into Mr Dickinson's account. Three days later Mr Sussams withdrew £3,500, prosecutor Nancy Udom claimed.
She said: "This was simply stealing. That money should have been left where it was or returned to the council."
Croydon Council halted the payments in January 2009 and sent Mr Sussams an invoice for £17,600, the court was told.
He told the council the money had been distributed to Mr Dickinson's family members in line with his will, the court heard.
In April 2009 Mr Sussams became landlord of the Royal Dart Hotel, a gastropub which served £125 champagne and truffle beef burgers.
He managed his business interests through two companies, Kingswear Inns and Jireh Investments and Assets, the jury was told.
But he allegedly failed to inform Croydon Council that he was director of the companies or that he was living in Devon, meaning the authority continued to pay him incapacity, housing and council tax benefit.
He is accused of falsely claiming a total of £14,625 between October 2010 and March 2012.
Ms Udom said: "This defendant was living in Devon as the landlord of that pub. He wasn't a resident of Croydon. He had an obligation to tell the council this but he did not because he knew his benefits would stop."
Mr Sussams denies theft, dishonestly making a false statement or representation and three charges of fraud by failing to disclose information.
The trial continues.