A couple who pretended they were separated to fraudulently claim more than £60,000 in benefits over five years have been jailed.

Maria Blyth and Kevin West told Croydon Council and the Department for Work and Pensions that Blyth was a single parent, when in reality they were living together.

The couple, from Crowley Crescent, Croydon, were exposed by an anonymous tipster.

Investigators discovered they had been paid £60,824.45 between January 2002 and August 2007.

They were sentenced at Croydon Crown Court last week after pleading guilty to charges of dishonestly failing to notify benefits departments of their real circumstances.

Blyth was jailed for 12 months and West for eight months.

Recorder Daphne Wickham, who sentenced the pair described them as “plainly and utterly dishonest”.

She said: “The defence had stated in mitigation that Blyth had put her hands in her pocket to begin repaying the overpayments. However, she had already filled her pockets to the tune of £60,000.”

Councillor Dudley Mead, Croydon Council’s cabinet member for finance and resources, said: "This should send a warning to others who deceive the authorities about their circumstances to cheat benefits they are not entitled to.

"Croydon Council takes this extremely seriously and will always prosecute where possible."