A 65-year-old man has been sentenced to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work after swindling Greenwich Council out of £14,000 in housing benefits.

Sinniah Sivarajah had declared his part-time work as a sales assistant at an off-licence since 1998, claiming that he earned £80 a week and needed housing benefit to support his rental payments.

However, he failed to declare that he also had several bank accounts that, in total, showed a credit of £125,000 over a period of almost five years.

Despite claiming his friends were using his accounts and not him the council's Internal Audit and Anti-Fraud team discovered that he had written and signed many recent cheques from the accounts, proving that he did indeed operate the bank accounts himself.

Sivarajah, from Woolwich, was sentenced at Bexley Magistrates Court on Monday, August 24, to a 12-month community punishment order with a requirement that he undertakes 120 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay the council costs of £100 and a victim surcharge of £60.

He had been receiving overpaid housing benefit between November 2007 and May 2012. This is now being repaid to the Royal Borough.

Councillor Maureen O’Mara, cabinet member for customer services, said: “This case involves the loss of over £14,000, a significant sum and money that is needed by so many people in genuine need within our borough. Mr Sivarajah now has a criminal record and I am pleased to hear that every penny of the money he defrauded will now have to be repaid. I hope this sends out a strong message to other benefit cheats - we will find you, and we will prosecute you, in order to protect the public purse.”