A benefits cheat told officials ‘if you don’t catch me, I’ll keep doing it’ as he fraudlently claimed thousands of pounds – before being caught.
Idajet Zenga worked as a kitchen porter in an Italian restaurant in Middlesbrough but was still claiming for employment and support allowance for a number of years.
The 61-year-old failed to tell the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) about his job at Fellini’s restaurant in Linthorpe when he applied for Jobseeker’s Allowance.
But he was found out, and it came to light he had actually been in work since 2008.
In total, the dad-of-four had received an overpayment of £7,084.60 in benefits from December 2012 until November 2016.
Zenga, who appeared at Teesside Magistrates’ Court unrepresented, pleaded guilty to four counts of benefit fraud.
Lynne Dalton, prosecuting, said: ‘When he was asked why he failed to declare his work to the department he said “if you don’t catch me, I’ll keep doing it”.’
A probation report revealed that Zenga was born in Albania and had moved to the UK in 2000 to seek asylum with his family.
The court heard he was living with his wife and their two children, aged 29 and 16, and that plans were in place for him to repay the money he received.
Chair of the bench, Martin Slimmings, told the defendant: ‘There are four offences of benefit fraud before us today totally a little over £7,000.
‘In the scheme of things, that fraud is towards the bottom end of the scale.
‘Given your previous good character and your guilty plea, we have decided this offence does not pass the custody threshold and you will not be going to prison today.’
Zenga, of Regent Road, Middlesbrough, was given a 12-month community order with 150 hours unpaid work.
He was also ordered to pay £170 in costs.