A couple from Portslade have been jailed for illegally claiming almost £65,000 in benefits.
Dr Maher Habib, 58, and Evelyn Girgis, 51, of Old Shoreham Road, Portslade, were sent to prison by a judge at Hove Crown Court yesterday (Tuesday 8 January).
The pair admitted charges of failing to declare that they owned a property and dishonestly claiming housing and council tax benefit.
They also pleaded guilty to failing to notify the council of any changes to their entitlement to benefits.
The total combined overpayment of jobseeker’s allowance, income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit from 2001 to 2010 was £64,818.11.
Habib and Girgis were ordered to repay the money and it was secured by a charging order on their property.
Brighton and Hove City Council said: “Steps will be taken to continue to recover the whole of overpayment.”
Both were given 20-month prison sentences. Girgis was given a further four months for breaching a suspended prison sentence.
The court also ordered the couple to pay £11,580 towards court costs and said that the council should take steps to sell one of their properties to claim back the overpayment.
Len Batten, prosecuting on behalf of the council, said that the couple were investigated after a newspaper report about Evelyn Girgis.
It said that she had been prosecuted for defrauding her employer, Lloyds TSB in Hove. She paid customers’ cheques into her own account.
Sussex Police found during an investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act to recover stolen assets that Girgis owned a property in Old Shoreham Road with her husband Maher Habib.
Council officials were aware that the couple were claiming housing benefit and council tax benefit for this property.
The investigation also revealed that in 2008 Girgis purchased a property in Fishersgate with her sister, which was rented out, and that Habib and Girgis had numerous undeclared bank accounts.
When interviewed by council officers, Habib said that he was working as an interpreter but had not notified the council as the work was irregular.
Girgis told officers that she thought she only had to declare her main account. She also admitted owning a second property with her sister.
Further investigations found that Habib had earned nearly £80,000 from July 2001 to June 2009 and that none of this income had been declared to the council.