A BENEFIT cheat who swindled £16,000 out of Basildon Council has avoided being sent to jail.

Mark Franklin, 49, of Audley Way, Basildon, falsely claimed housing and council tax benefit for more than two-and-a-half years.

He failed to tell the Department of Work and Pension about savings he had, or that he was receiving an income.

Franklin appeared at Basildon Crown Court and admitted knowingly failing to notify a change in circumstances between 19 May 2009 and 28 October 2012, which affected his entitlement to benefits.

He also admitted knowingly producing or furnishing information which was false, on 14 October 2010, to obtain benefits.

Franklin was sentenced to a 12- month community order and told he must carry out 140 hours of unpaid work, and pay £2,304 costs.

The judge took into account his previous good character and the remorse he had shown for the crimes.

He also took into account the fact the offences had been committed over a lengthy period of time, telling Franklin he had taken the money from those who were genuinely in need.

After the hearing, Stuart Sullivan, Basildon councillor responsible for resources, said: “Benefit fraud is theft and cheats who try to get away with it are stealing from their neighbours, the residents of Basildon.

“In most cases, benefits are paid to those in genuine need of support.

However, there are an unscrupulous fewwho think they can dishonestly dip into the public purse unnoticed.

“This is not the case. The council’s fraud investigations team use a variety of methods to uncover benefit fraud and will leave no stone unturned.

“Benefit fraud is against the law and cheats will be forced to face the consequences.”