A Croydon Council worker who fraudulently more than £36,000 of benefits from her own employer has been spared jail.
Nicole Kelly claimed housing benefit and council tax benefit from the council for five years. She told the council she had no financial assets, when in fact she was renting out a property which she later sold for a £75,000 profit.
Kelly, 35, was sentenced at Croydon Crown Court on Monday.
Judge Jeremy Gold QC said he had "no sympathy" for Kelly and she deserved an immediate prison sentence. But, taking into account the fact she had young children, he suspended her 15 month jail sentence for two years.
The council's finance chief, Councillor Simon Hall said benefit fraud of such magnitude "always comes as a shock. When it's committed by a member of the council's own staff, though, the shock and dismay are even greater".
Kelly had told the council's benefits department that she had no capital or income, when in fact she privately rented out a property.
The fraud meant she was overpaid a total of £36,770 in housing benefit and council tax benefit between September 26, 2006 and March 7, 2011.
She later made a £75,000 profit by selling the property, though made no effort to use the money to repay the benefits she fraudulently claimed.
Her deception was uncovered by a routine benefit matching exercise by the council in April 2013, whose investigators realised she was an employee.
A spokesman for the council said she was suspended in September 2013 and sacked "a short time later" after a disciplinary investigation.
He said the council was "not prepared to divulged her employment history", but added that none of the various roles in which she was employed were in senior positions, "nor specifically offered the opportunity to commit the offences for which she was prosecuted".
Cllr Hall, cabinet member for finance and treasury, said the "diligent" work of the council's fraud investigators had stopped Kelly from profiting by more than £110,000, taking into account the money she received for the sale of the property. "That was money that she, in effect, stole from the honest people of Croydon, and we'll be doing all we can, under the Proceeds of Crime Act, to recover the illegally gained sum for the people that genuinely need it."
Kelly was also ordered to abide by an 8pm to 5am curfew at her home.
So she stopped claiming in March 2011.
The council ran a matching exercise two years later. She was suspended five months after that.
Her sentencing hearing comes two and a quarter years later.
Let's hope dozy Croydon at least gets the money back.