A FRAUDSTER who cheated telephone companies out of £56,000 while spending 18 hours and more a day on the internet has avoided an immediate trip to jail.

Jonathan White used a series of false names and imaginary companies to set up different British Telecom accounts and run up massive bills, Alan Mitcheson, prosecuting, said.

For years, whenever the company closed one account, he opened another. By the time British Telecom realised what was going on, he had opened 30 separate accounts at two addresses with unpaid bills totalling £42,381.

In the same period he had run similar frauds on other companies totalling £14,333 and persuaded gambling services to give him £10,000 in “frequent user” refunds.

“The fraud is remarkable in that it appears to have been allowed to continue for such a period of time without the ability of the procedures at the telephone companies to essentially detect and prevent him from continuing to obtain services from them,” said Mr Mitcheson.

The Recorder of York, Judge Stephen Ashurst, told White: “Your life appears to have revolved around chatting online and gaming online.”

The offences merited a prison sentence, but it was an “unusual case”. White did not appreciate his behaviour was criminal because he had Aspergers Syndrome, which was not diagnosed until after his arrest, though his family had been concerned about his behaviour for years.

The judge suspended a 12-month prison sentence for two years on condition White does 300 hours’ unpaid work and agrees to two years’ supervision.

White, 25, of Lilac Walk, Scarborough, pleaded guilty to two charges of fraud and asked for four similar offences to be considered.

A spokesman for BT said White’s arrest followed a joint operation between BT Corporate Investigations and the BT Revenue Fraud Team.

“BT Security processes helped identify and halt his fraud. Security is an issue that BT takes very seriously and we invest millions of pounds in the prevention and detection of fraud.”

For White, Glenn Parsons said he was a very isolated and vulnerable person living with his alcoholic mother until her death in 2010. He had retreated into internet gaming.