A BENEFITS cheat who swindled the taxpayer out of nearly £20,000 had more than £60,000 in her bank account.

Anne Willoughby, 69, of Salisbury Close, Penarth, falsely claimed housing benefit for four years until she was found out, Cardiff Crown Court heard.

Prosecutor Tom Roberts said the pensioner received £19,529.35 between June 2015 and November 2019.

He told the judge, Recorder Simon Mills, how Willoughby started claiming benefits when she had more than £50,000 in a Lloyds Bank account and £10,000 in a Principality account.

She pleaded guilty to making a false statement to obtain benefit.

Willoughby’s husband appeared as a joint claimant but he knew nothing about the £60,000 in her accounts as she had as “she withheld it from him”.

The court was told the money had been left to her son by her late sister but he was “very bad with money” and she didn’t want to give it to him all at once.

Mr Roberts said Willoughby was a woman of previous good character with no convictions recorded against her.

He said she had already paid back £7,000 to the taxpayer and was making repayments of £100 a month to clear the rest of the balance.

Matthew Roberts, mitigating, said of his client: “She bitterly regrets coming to the crown court at the age of 69 and facing a prison sentence.

“The defendant has not lived a flash life. She doesn’t have the proverbial Ferrari in the garage.

“She’s not a regular customer of the criminal justice system. She was interviewed in December 2019 and admitted her wrongdoing at once.

“The defendant has had this hanging over head for some quite considerable time.”

Recorder Mills told Willoughby: “This is a sad and unfortunate episode.”

He said he was able to spare her a prison sentence and handed her a 12-month community order.

She must complete a five-day rehabilitation activity order and pay a victim surcharge.