Leeds benefit cheat owned Spanish villa

Picture: PA Wire
Picture: PA Wire
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A benefits cheat illegally claimed over £27,000 despite owning a Spanish villa and not living in the UK, a court heard.

Dianne Rhodes, 59, claimed income support and council tax benefits for six years after telling authorities she lived in the Hunslet area of Leeds.

Leeds Crown Court heard that throughout the period of offending she was living in the Valencia region of Spain where she owned a villa.

Rhodes was given a 26-week prison sentence, suspended for two years and was ordered to do 100 hours unpaid work after pleading guilty two offences of failing to notify a change in circumstances and one of making a dishonest representation to obtain benefits. Simon Clegg, prosecuting, said Rhodes’s initial claim for benefits in 2001 were legitimate.

But in 2006 she left her home on Parnaby Drive, Hunslet, to take up residency in Spain after buying a 50 per cent share in a villa. She failed to notify authorities of the move and continued to claim benefits which were paid into her bank account. The offending came to light in 2012 and she was arrested.

Graham Parkin, mitigating, said Rhodes fled the country in 2006 to escape domestic violence but accepted that she failed to notify authorities of a change in circumstances.

Mr Parkin said the property in Spain was worth around £35,000 and was in need of renovation. He said Rhodes had now returned to live in with her daughter and was studying for a languages degree at university.

Judge Neil Clark told Rhodes: “None of that is an excuse for stealing from the public. It amounts to nothing more and nothing less than that. You stole money from members of the public who provide that money for those who really need it.”

Rhodes now faces a confiscation hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act.