A MAN who made up a Southend address to claim housing benefit has been jailed.

Roy Vassell, 47, of Guildford Road, Guildford, was handed a 12-week prison sentence by magistrates for 15 counts of housing benefit fraud.

He must also pay back £1,615.54 of wrongfully-obtained housing benefit.

Vassell received the benefits from Southend Council for what he described as a basement flat in Clifftown Road, Southend.

However, the council later cancelled his claim after he failed to reply to a request for more information.

Pictures taken by the council show the flat was uninhabitable, with junk blocking access, damp causing the ceiling to crumble away and a grotty bathroom which looks like it hasn’t been used for years.

Vassell was undeterred by the council cancelling his benefit claim and asked for another £4,100 of benefits to cover rent arrears he said he owed his landlord.

He said the landlord had hired a debt recovery companywhich was pursuing him for money, but it turned out to be his own company.

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The council’s corporate fraud investigation team visited the basement and found no flat existed.

In formal interviews, Vassell said he had been living at the property, where he had spent time and money decorating. However, he was unable to show what improvements he had made, or describe the owner or landlord.

Basildon Magistrates’ Court heard Vassell completed a false tenancy agreement and a false application for housing benefit from the outset.

He compounded the offences by repeatedly applying for the backdated money he was not entitled to.

The council’s corporate director for corporate services, Sally Holland, said: “Although we are committed to paying benefits to those who are entitled, the council also has a duty to protect the public purse and take action against people committing benefit fraud.”

To raise suspicions over a person’s entitlement to benefits, call the corporate fraud investigation team on 01702 215254, or email counterfraud@southend.gov.uk.

Information is treated in confidence.

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