A man who claimed he needed a council house but was actually a landlord, has been ordered to pay back more than £48,000 or face a prison sentence.
Gavin Lescott, 41, was in the process of buying a property with his brother when he applied to be placed on the council housing register in 2006.
He went on to buy a house in Northern Road, Manor Park, as an investment property and it was leased to tenants. In the meantime, he was offered a council tenancy in Woodford Way, Britwell, which he accepted.
He also did not declare he owned a property when he applied for benefits in 2017.
Mr Lescott has now been ordered to pay £48,408 by Judge Angela Morris sitting at Reading Crown Court on Friday 26 July. This was deemed to be the total criminal benefit from illegally obtaining the tenancy and residing there for more than 10 years. He has to repay the money by 25 October or face 18 months in prison for non payment. He was also ordered to pay full council prosecution costs of £6,816 at the Proceeds of Crime Act hearing.
He admitted three offences under the Fraud Act 2006 for making false representations and failing to disclose information he was legally obliged to disclose, intending to make a gain for himself.
He was given a 12 month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, when he was sentenced for the offences in May at Reading Crown Court. He was also ordered to complete 100 hours of unpaid work and 10 days of rehabilitation which was aimed at helping him to understand the consequences of his actions and choices.
Mr Lescott agreed to move out of the house in Woodford Way and voluntarily returned the keys to the council at the end of June 2019. This saves the council from formally evicting him through the civil courts which would have incurred extra costs.
The house is now in the process of being rented out to another family on the council housing register.
Cllr Mohammed Nazir, cabinet member for housing and community safety, said: “We will not tolerate those individuals who seek to defraud the local taxpayer.
“Social and council housing is there to provide much needed homes for our residents, not to generate illicit profits for dishonest tenants.
“The council will continue to take tough action against those unscrupulous individuals who seek to deny vulnerable families a roof over their heads.
“We will always push for the harshest punishments where we find people defrauding not just the council but the children, families and hard working residents on our housing register.”