Man found guilty of sub-letting Housing Executive property
A man has been given a three-month suspended jail term for sub-letting his Housing Executive property as part of a benefits scam.
Gary Campion was convicted of failing to declare a change in his circumstances to the Social Security Agency.
The 32-year-old rented out his south Belfast home for £350 a month while claiming £250 in housing benefit.
The extra money enabled him to move to move expensive accommodation.
It is believed to be the first criminal prosecution for tenancy fraud in Northern Ireland.
Belfast Magistrates' Court heard that after placing an advert on Gumtree a woman who responded paid more than £2,000 in rent and a deposit between June and December last year.
Campion, now with an address at Mount Merrion Drive in Belfast, also provided her with a rent book.
The woman only realised something was not right when a Housing Executive contractor called to service a gas boiler in the property in the Village area.
Campion denied any dishonesty, claiming he was told by the authority that he could sub-let in special circumstances.
The court heard how he no longer felt safe living in the house.
But the judge decided Campion must have known his actions were prohibited without written permission.
Imposing three-months imprisonment, suspended for a year, the judge said he had been found guilty of a dishonesty offence involving public money.
The judge told him: "We all know, unless we live in a bubble, that public money is extremely thin on the ground these days.
"Anyone who abuses money that is given for people in need is liable to be dealt with appropriately by the courts.
"In this case you dishonestly sub-let your Housing Executive house and managed to make an extra £100 a month as well as the housing benefit you were getting for it."