A wealthy Keston man has narrowly escaped jail after defrauding a government department and Bromley Council out of nearly £70,000.

Geoffrey Sims, 65, of Mark Close, pleaded guilty to five offences under the Social Security Administration Act at Croydon Crown Court on August 7.

Simons was sentenced to 10 months’ in prison, suspended for 18 months, and has been given a six-month curfew order keeping him housebound between 10pm and 6am.

The court heard how Sims claimed £16,900 in council tax benefit between 2005 and 2013, while also received credit from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) totalling £44,137.

He also took £7,252 in Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) after dishonestly producing a relative’s claim for the money.

Anonymous information passed to the authorities led to the discovery that when Sims had made his first claim he failed to mention numerous assets and funds.

Bromley Council said Sims owned two additional properties he rented out, had sold a house in Spain, and had inherited more than £16,000.

He also had two private pensions, more than £42,000 in premium bonds, and more than £102,000 in a bank account.

The fraudster also put a property he bought in a relative’s name after receiving £600,000 from land he sold and took responsibility for the relative’s false claim to ESA based on ownership of the property.

Councillor Neil Reddin, chairman of Bromley’s Audit Committee, said: “We are pleased with the successful prosecution, though we believe a custodial sentence would have been appropriate in this case given the amount involved and the failure to declare considerable assets.

“This case demonstrates the importance of reporting concerns to Bromley Council so that cheats can be tracked down and prosecuted. We must ensure that public funds are only used for those in genuine need.”

Sims had to pay all the money back to Bromley Council and the DWP.