A FIDDLER swindled more than £65,000 in benefits while raking in similar amount as he worked, a court heard.

Paul Meggison, 48, claimed housing benefit, Council Tax relief and Income Support despite having a well-paid job.

Today (July 7), the cheat dodged prison after a judge at Teesside Crown Court heard that he was paying back the money.

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Meggison, who represented himself, was asked if he would do community work, and replied: "I'll do anything."

Recorder Sonia Drake, told him: "It's serious because you did it over a number of years when you were earning good money.

"If I sent you to prison, you will lose that employment and you would not be able to pay back that money."

Meggison, a car delivery driver, was given an eight-month suspended jail term with 140 hours' unpaid work.

He told the judge: "I will pay it back, no matter what happens. I know I have to pay it back."

The court heard how he started claiming benefits while he was out-of-work in 1990, but continued after he got work.

Between. May 2009 and July last year, he raked in £45,433 in Income Support and £20,996 from his council.

Investigators discovered that during the same period, he had been paid £60,787 and got £9,000 inheritance.

Ms Recorder Drake also ordered him to pay the court costs of £460 at the rate of £20 a month.

Meggison, of Fife Grove, Hartlepool, admitted two charges of failing to notify a change of circumstance.