A CAFE owner and domestic landlord cheated council taxpayers by claiming he was unemployed and had no property, York magistrates heard.

Christopher Cuinu was caught as part of a national Government investigation into council tax fraud, said Victoria Waudby, prosecuting for City of York Council.

He runs Caffe La Tazzina on Blossom Street and he and his wife had three rent paying tenants at their Windsor Garth house.

But from September 10, 2012, until his fraud was discovered earlier this year, he claimed a reduction in his domestic council tax on the grounds he lived on Jobseekers Allowance and did not own any property.

He started up the cafe business in 2013 and didn't tell the council about the change in his circumstances and he didn't tell the council about the property despite the application form saying that he should declare any property owned by himself or his wife. He got his council tax reduced by a total of £5,882.

Mrs Waudby said: "This was discovered not by the defendant declaring it, but by a data matching exercise. Had it not been for that, the fraud would have continued."

Cuinu, 52, of Blossom Street, York, pleaded guilty to council tax benefit and council tax reduction fraud by false representation and failure to provide accurate property and income details to the the city council.

Magistrates gave him a 12-month community order with 150 hours' unpaid work for the community and ordered him to pay £589 prosecution costs and an £85 statutory surcharge.

He told council officers the cafe didn't turn a profit for its first two years and once he had decided not to tell the council about his business, he had felt he had to continue the fraud.

For him, Cheryl Rudden said he was distressed by what he had done "but frankly there is a certain amount of relief because it is being resolved."

He didn't consider the Windsor Garth property as his as it had initially only been in his wife's name only.

Speaking after the hearing, City of York councillor Jenny Brooks, executive member with responsibility for fraud, said: “Fraud against the council deprives residents of vital public services and has the greatest impact on those who are the most vulnerable in society. We will continue to investigate and prosecute anyone who engages in fraudulent activity against the council.”

“We encourage anyone with any information on fraudulent activity to phone the fraud hotline on 0800 9179 247 or email fraud@york.gov.uk.”