A BENEFITS cheat who falsely claimed more than £70,000 escaped going to prison.

Katie Stroud, 35, of Cendl Crescent, Ebbw Vale, was found out after a tip-off from a neighbour.

When Blaenau Gwent Council officers visited the house she claimed to be living in, they found only a kettle in the kitchen.

They conducted surveillance on the house on Bevan Crescent and only saw her go to the house once in three weeks.

Judge Thomas Crowther QC said: “Cheats are corrosive to the benefits system. People resent paying money which is paid out to the undeserving, and people feeling resentful wrongly categorise genuine claimants as undeserving. Furthermore, of course, money is diverted from the needy.”

He accepted Stroud’s initial claim for working tax credits in 2003 had been legitimate but said “things went wrong for you after that, badly so.”

The court heard Stroud had suffered family tragedy, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Judge Crowther said the fact which stopped him imposing a prison term was because she is a carer.

Stroud was found guilty at Gwent Magistrates’ Court of failing to notify a change in circumstances affecting benefit payments, which allowed her to falsely claim housing benefit and council tax benefit for a house on Honeyfield Road and later Bevan Crescent in Rassau, when she was actually living with her mother.

She then pleaded guilty to a further six counts of failing to disclose changes in circumstances, which allowed her to falsely claim Working Tax Credits, Income Support and Employment Support Allowance.

The first claim after she should have notified the authorities of a change in circumstance was made in July 2003 and the offending went on until September 2012, Cardiff Crown Court heard.

Stroud wrongly obtained £48,545.95 in working tax credits, £5,705.54 in Council Tax benefit and £16,241.68 in housing benefit, a court heard.

As the houses were owned by the local authority, housing benefit was paid back to the council.

Hywel Hughes, defending, said considering this and the fact the defendant was working for some of the time she claimed working tax credits so would have been entitled to some benefits, the total loss to the public purse was around £48,000.

Stroud was given suspended prison sentences of 12 months for each offence. She was also given a condition of 12 months supervision.