A greedy landlord has been jailed for six months after claiming £73,500 in benefits – while building a £1 million property portfolio of ten homes.
Adrian Callen, 57, claimed he had no income other than benefits and had just £250 in savings.
But the grandfather was actually raking in thousands of pounds in rent from ten flats he had bought across the South West, worth around £100,000 each.
Bristol Crown Court heard how he renovated the properties and used rent to pay for huge mortgages he had taken out on them during the eight-year scam.
His property empire – which he began to build in 2002 – is now crippled with £800,000 of mortgage debt due to the crash in the housing market, the court was told.
Callen, of Bedminster Down, Bristol, was caught out when one of his tenants applied for benefits and officials launched an investigation into his finances.
He was arrested and later admitted nine counts of fraud, telling police he had seen buying properties as a “chance to better himself”.
His honour Judge Julian Lambert jailed balding Callen for six months, slamming him as a “greedy” cheat.
He said: “Your offending continued over a period of about eight years. Eventually you came to own 10 properties and received rent from those.
“You had a gross worth of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
“What you did was deliberate and greedy. Yours was one of the worst types of this fraud. This behaviour makes honest folk who struggle to get by feel sick.
“Your behaviour incites ill feeling towards genuine benefit claimants who deserve sympathy and compassion. Your claim was fraudulent from the outset.”
Bristol Crown Court heard how Callen first began claiming council tax benefits for his three-bedroomed detached house in Bristol after his estranged wife moved out.
Callen started claiming the cash when he became the sole carer for his then four-year-old grandson after social services told him he would have to quit his job to care for the boy.
He signed forms stating that he had no savings, properties or investments – despite £29,000 in savings he had stashed in a bank account.
But in April 2003 he purchased a flat in Splott in Cardiff for £38,000 without a mortgage and sold it a year later, in July 2004, for £107,000.
Callen continued to claim benefits – each time stating that he had no savings other than £250 and owned no properties other than his home address.
In November 2004, Callen bought a flat at Glenwood Mansions in Weston-super-Mare for £67,500, purchasing another flat there in August 2005 for £71,500.
The following December, Callen purchased a flat at Weston Lodge in Bristol for £113,000.
He snapped up a flat for £122,000 in Knightstone Road, Weston-super-Mare, in January 2006 and bought another flat at Glenwood Mansions in the town for #120,000 in February.
In June 2006, Callen paid £102,000 for a flat on Meadow Street in Avonmouth.
Along with his son, Callen took out three mortgages worth £300,000 to purchases three flats at Warden Road in Bristol in February 2007.
His final purchase was a flat on Locking Road in Weston-super-Mare for £86,000.
Callen secured huge mortgages for the properties by telling lenders he had an income of £31,000 – £16,000 from a retirement fund and £15,000 from renting.
Alan Fuller, prosecuting, told the court that Callen repeatedly lied about his income, savings and investments as well as telling officers he did not own any properties.
But landlord finally came clean when he was arrested in February 2011 after one of his tenants submitted a benefits claim.
His fraud was revealed to be £59,886 in come support, £8,923 in council tax allowance and £4,882 in Jobseeker’s Allowance.
Mr Fuller said: “He said social services had completed the forms initially and he had simply signed them.
“He thought there was nothing wrong about owning properties. He said he had no money after leaving work and took a chance to better himself.
“He admitted he owned ten properties that he rented out. The rent was paid into his bank account.
“He said he knew he had done wrong and he would take it on the chin.”
Callen, who has a previous conviction for obtaining a property by deception in 1992, has been repaying the amount he fraudulently claimed, the court heard.
But his finances have been left “in the red” – with his properties “mortgaged to the hilt” with £800,000 outstanding.
He is currently £5,000 overdrawn, while his credit cards are “maxed out”.
Timothy Rose, mitigating, said: “He is mortgaged to the hilt. He is in an utter mess. It is estimated that he owes up to £800,000 in mortgage debt.
“Some if not all of these properties are in negative equity. He is being pursued by bailiffs and he has handed me a whole sequence of ‘red letter’ letters, demands.
“He is not in fact a sophisticated man despite what he has done.”
He said Callen suffers from depression, fully accepts responsibility for his actions and has already started paying back his ill gotten gains.