A NORTHOLT man who claimed benefits while working as a driving instructor was given a suspended sentence after fraudulently claiming almost £50,000 over three and a half years.

Haider Abbas, 32, of Whitton Avenue West, was investigated by Ealing Council after an anonymous tip-off revealed he was working as an instructor at London Elite Driving School and had been falsely claiming housing and council tax benefit since March 2010.

Abbas had taken almost 200 candidates for practical driving tests since 2009 while he claimed to be working only 16 hours a week as a secretary on the minimum wage.

He was sentenced at Harrow Crown Court after admitting two offences of dishonestly making a false representation and one charge of dishonestly failing to notify of a change in circumstances.

Abbas was given a six-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to pay costs of £3,651.64. He was also put under a curfew for six months and will have to do 150 hours of unpaid work.

He claimed £44,129.40 housing benefit, £4,104.94 council tax benefit and £456.49 council tax support, which he will have to pay back to Ealing Council.

Councillor Yvonne Johnson, cabinet member for finance, performance and welfare, said: “This is a very serious case where nearly £50,000 was overpaid due to fraud.”

Anyone with information about suspected housing and benefit fraud should call the council’s fraud hotline on 0800 328 6453, where they can provide information anonymously.

Alternatively, people can report fraud by emailing fraudreferrals@ealing.gov.uk