A BENEFITS cheat who claimed more than £18,000 dishonestly will have to complete 200 hours unpaid work after being caught.

Lauretta De Luca, of Alexander Lane, Shenfield, was given the sentence at Southend Crown Court after Brentwood Council discovered she had been falsely claiming for housing and council tax benefit.

Ms De Luca, also known as Lauretta Borris, claimed a total of £11,878.56 for housing and £6,180.10 for council tax, but deliberately did not reveal she owned another property in London.

On October 1 she pleaded guilty at Basildon Crown Court to three offences under the Social Security Administration Act.

Chris Hossack, councillor responsible for the council’s audit commission, said this sentencing should act as a warning for anyone thinking of dishonestly claiming benefits they should not.

Mr Hossack said: “Let no one be in any doubt that we will prosecute anyone who falsely claims benefits from the council.

“Those considering such behaviour should also understand that as well as the punishment they will receive from the court, they will also inevitably be ordered to pay us back all the money they have wrongly obtained.”

Along with the unpaid work hours, Ms De Luca was also handed a 12 month community order.