A woman has been handed a suspended sentence after fraudulently claiming £53,000 of housing benefit.

Karen Bastik, 52, of Greenhill in Buckhurst Hill was handed four concurrent nine-month jail terms, suspended for two years, and ordered to pay £950 costs.

Epping Forest District Council (EFDC) brought the prosecution after discovering the fraudster had received money she was not entitled to on four occasions between September 2004 and October 2009.

Syd Stavrou, EFDC portfolio holder for finance, said: “Housing benefit is means tested and is meant to help people on a low income to pay their bills.

“I am pleased with the outcome of this case and it sends a message that deliberately deceiving the council to obtain benefits is taken extremely seriously and we will seek to prosecute anyone who is found to have done this.”

When she began claiming housing benefit in September 2004 and then again in January 2005, she used her married name of Walford and claimed she was not related to her landlord.

It was later discovered he was her brother.

In October 2011, when claiming benefits again, Ms Bastick used her maiden name but gave a false name for her brother so the relationship would not be detected.

She also failed to notify the council after acquiring £50,000 in October 2009 which should have been reported as a change in circumstances.

After carrying out an investigation, the council called the tenant in for an interview under caution in August 2013, when she admitted the offences.

Ms Bastik is now the subject of a supervision order and has been ordered to carry out 250 hours of unpaid work.

EFDC is currently in the process of recovering the £53,712.61 overpaid to Ms Bastik.

Ms Bastick pleaded guilty to the offences at Colchester Magistrates Court on June 24 and was referred to the Chelmsford Crown Court for sentencing on July 16.