AN ENGINEER from Southampton conned the taxpayer out of more than £21,000 for benefits even though he had a house in Spain, a court heard.

Southampton magistrates heard how Roger Stebbing kept quiet about his home that been worth up to 180,000 euros, roughly equivalent to £141,000, when claiming pension credits, council tax and housing benefits.

Stebbing, of Padwell Road, in Bevois Town, admitted two counts of benefit fraud by making false statements in 2008.

The 65-year-old has pledged to pay it all back because he has just sold his property at a discounted amount of 105,000 euros, which is about £81,000.

In mitigation, the court heard how Stebbing had moved out to Spain in 2001 from Hedge End, after working in the pipe laying industry, to set up a snooker hall. He moved back in 2008 after separating from his partner.

Then, crippled by arthritis, he made a claim without telling the benefits agency about his home in the sun because it was “out of sight, out of mind”.

Presiding magistrate Brandy Gill said the court would spare Stebbing a community order because of his poor health. He was fined £200 and ordered to pay £265 in costs.