A self employed plumber forged his son’s name onto documents so he and his wife could illegally claim over £88,000 in state benefits.
Pensioners Peter and Maureen Kitching, of Westerton Road, Tingley, were able to claim housing and council tax benefits, income support and carers allowance over a 13 year period as a result of the deception.
Leeds Crown Court heard the Kitchings owned their own home in Middleton, Leeds, but managed to convince authorities that they only rented the property after submitting a fake tenancy document in 2002.
The name of Peter Kitching’s son from a previous relationship was added to the document without him knowing to make out that he was the owner of the house on Sissons Road.
The couple were then able to claim benefits on the basis that they were not homeowners and neither of them worked.
Tom Storey, prosecuting, said Peter had his own company called Associated Plumbing.
The Kitchings were given suspended prison sentences by a judge who told them they “richly deserved” to go straight to jail.
Recorder David Dixon told Peter that he should be ashamed of they way he abused his son’s trust to commit the offence.
He said: “Imagine what would have happened if the police had knocked on his door and accused him of theft or fraud?”
“For a father to do that to his son and put him at risk in that way is a horrible, horrible act.”
Mr Storey said the Kitchings went on to sell the house to their daughter in 2009 and continued to claim benefits.
From 2007 Peter was able to claim carers allowance after claiming he looked after his wife for more than 35 hours per week.
The couple were arrested and interviewed in June last year when the offending came to light.
Peter, 70, admitted that he had been a self employed plumber during the period of offending but said he did not keep any records or make VAT returns.
He pleaded guilty to two offences of providing a false statement in order to obtain benefit.
Maureen, 69, admitted that she knew what she was doing was wrong. She pleaded guilty to making a false statement and failing to notify a change in circumstances.
Lawyers for the couple said they were ashamed of what they had done and were now paying back the money at a rate of £400 per month.
The court heard the couple owned another property that was mortgaged almost to its full value and had little equity in it.
Recorder Dixon told the couple he was not jailing them as they were not in good health and to care for them in custody would cost the taxpayer even more money.
He said: “A lot of people will say you richly deserve to go to prison right now for a long time.
“What would £88,000 buy? A couple of nurses? A couple of teachers?
“When it is put in those terms you understand why people have this reaction to people who cheat the system.
“I have seen you standing in the dock and have seen how much shame you have brought upon yourselves.”
The Recorder added: “Your lives are going to be frugal for the rest of your lives because you are going to have to pay this money back.
“If that makes life difficult - to put it in plain terms - tough! Because you brought this on yourselves.”