A FRAUDSTER who narrowly avoided jail after failing to declare she owned a home when she applied for a council house has been ordered to pay back more than £34k.

Dudley Council spent £29k adapting a council house for Annet Nemah Umuzia Cox's specific requirements - despite her being a homeowner.

The council also paid £2,078 rent and £399 council tax on the property while it was being adapted, due to the adaptations taking some time to complete.

When Mrs Cox moved into the property - she privately rented out the home she owned - creating an income of £5,240.

Dudley Council took Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 proceedings against Cox and a Confiscation Order for £39,883, with £34,407 to be paid as compensation to the council was made in court last month.

Cox pleaded guilty to an offence under the Fraud Act 2006 last December, when she was sentenced to six months custody, suspended for 12 months.

Alan Lunt, Dudley Council's deputy chief executive and strategic director for place, said: "Housing fraud is a very serious matter and those who are tempted to try and cheat the system should be reminded that we will investigate and pursue thoroughly all instances of wrongdoing.

"Our priority is rightly focused upon those who are most deserving and we will continue to help those who are most in need of council housing.

"Failure for Cox to pay could result in imprisonment.

"She is no longer a council tenant."

Cox failed to disclose her status as a homeowner when applying for council housing.

Had she declared her correct circumstances, Cox would not have been eligible for a Dudley Council tenancy.