A Brighton council tenant has been ordered to pay £5,600 for illegally letting his Kemp Town home.
Juan Carlos Garcia, 44, of Redhill Drive, Brighton, was found guilty of social housing fraud at Brighton Magistrates’ Court.
He earned £3,199 by illegally subletting a council property in Essex Place in Montague Street, Brighton.
Garcia denied the charge but was found guilty and fined £3,500 and ordered to pay £2,100 in costs.
Brighton and Hove City Council investigators found that Garcia had a secured tenancy at the property along with a four-year-old child.
Checks were carried out with the NHS which established no record of a child living at this property.
A referral was received from the council’s housing contractor Mears, working near the property, alleging that they had not seen the occupant for about two years.
But they had seen what they believed were students coming and going from the flat.
With no sign of Garcia and no record of a four-year-old child, council investigators made several unannounced visits to the property.
On one of these visits a woman answered and said that she was a cleaner and that Garcia was working but would be home later.
On another visit a man answered and identified himself as Raul but said that he did not live at the property. He could not confirm where he did live.
Investigators looked around the property and found the lounge set up as a bedroom and other rooms containing men’s clothes and toiletries.
After further visits, Garcia eventually phoned the council to say that he was in South America as his father was ill.
He said that he would return to Britain in six weeks and his girlfriend Berta was resident with him and had been for the past six months.
But Garcia’s bank statements showed payments marked as rent. He was calculated to have made a profit of £3,199 in addition to the rent owed to the council.
Garcia later phoned the council saying that he was in Peru but would be back in June.
An interview under caution was scheduled which involved Garcia bringing his passport and flight itinerary but he failed to show up.
Further attempts were made by the council to contact Garcia. A response was finally received saying that he was still in Peru and was ill and had not returned to Britain as he was unable to leave the country.
Based on the evidence gathered by the council, the Housing Department issued a notice to quit the property.
In August an officer went to change the locks but the property was found abandoned.
The council’s deputy housing chair Councillor Alex Phillips said: “We are desperately short of housing in Brighton and Hove with more than 19,000 households on our housing register so we will not tolerate anyone who illegally sublets to make a profit.
“Prosecution is always a last resort but where we have sufficient evidence of fraud we will investigate and take action.
“We’re pleased this property has come back to the council and we will allocate it as soon as possible.”