A retired nurse faked tenancy agreements to pretend she only rented her £400,000 home and cheated £66,000 in benefits, a court has heard.
Margaret Ayensu, 71, of Kithurst Lane, Storrington, spent ten years keeping up her lie to claim pensions credit and housing benefit she was not entitled to.
As well as creating the fraudulent tenancy agreement, she faked multiple letters to support her claims.
Ayensu appeared at Lewes Crown Court on Thursday (October 12) as she was spared jail by a judge who showed her leniency because of her age and years of public service working as a nurse.
The former nurse was told she will have to repay more than £66,000 she fraudulently claimed after she admitted failing to correctly notify the Department of Work and Pensions of her circumstances, and three counts of using fraudulent documents to claim housing benefit from Horsham District Council.
Gareth Burrows, prosecuting, told Lewes Crown Court: “She claimed she had no income coming in and she was renting her property.
“She provided a rental agreement from a landlord in the name of Margaret McAlpine, but that was a name she had previously used. The property belonged to her.
“She claimed housing benefit from 2005 for the address that was in fact hers.
“She then subsequently provided a letter from a Cecil Grey confirming the rental. Again that letter was false.
“A further letter was provided in 2009 and that letter was on headed paper and again saying there was a rental agreement on that property.
“Again that letter was fraudulent. Whilst her deceit may not have taken considerable effort it was over a long period of time.”
Martin Williams, defending Ayensu, said she had fallen into financial difficulties after retiring and falling out with her daughter, but had not realised there were benefits available that could help her while struggling to meet mortgage repayments.
Recorder Tom Nicholson-Pratt told Ayensu: “If you had gone about this in a legitimate way you could have got some help.”
Agreeing to suspend the 12-month sentence he imposed on her for a year he added: “You come before the court for dishonesty over a considerable period of time, between 2006 and 2017.
“You provided false documents to support your claim.
“You must have realised as this was going on you could stop it at any time. But you perpetuated it.
“You are now 71 years of age and have some health concerns.
“I take the view that in the circumstances of this case I can suspend your 12 month sentence and there will be a rehabilitation requirement on you.
“I know you are not going to put yourself in this position again.”
Ayensu was ordered to complete 10 rehabilitation sessions and will have to reappear before the court on January 8 to ensure she has repaid what she owes.