A greedy pub landlord who looted £32,000 while selling the world’s most expensive burgers has been jailed – despite saying he was too fat for prison.
Stephen Sussams, 59, stole £17,000 from his dead friend’s bank account and conned nearly £15,000 in housing and council tax benefit.
At the same time he was driving a Bentley and running the posh Royal Dart Hotel in Devon where his champagne and truffle burgers cost £125.
His lawyer said Sussams should be spared jail because he was struggling with obesity-related illness, including diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.
But a judge dismissed the plea and threw him behind bars for eight months.
Croydon Crown Court heard how Sussams looked after disabled civil partner Keith Dickenson and failed to tell the local authority when he died at the age of 72 in 2008.
The council continued paying care benefits into Mr. Dickenson’s bank and Sussams carried on taking the money – withdrawing £4,000 the day after his death.
He then helped himself to four more sums of between £3,000 and £4,000 before Croydon Council halted the payments in January 2009.
At the same time Sussam’s pub in Kingswear, Devon was boasting the world’s most expensive burger.
It was made from Japanese Wagyu beef marinated in champagne for 24 hours and then seasoned with fresh black truffle in a toasted truffle bun.
Sussams tried to claim he thought the cash had come from stripclub tycoon Peter Stringfellow who had employed Mr Dickinson when he was alive.
At the same time he took over the tenancy of his deceased friend’s flat and fraudulently claimed housing and council tax benefit until September 2011.
He was eventually confronted while sitting in his luxury car in a BBC Panorama probe screened last year called “Britain on the Fiddle”.
Sussams denied four counts of benefit fraud and one count of theft but was convicted at Croydon Crown Court on December 9.
Sentencing him on Friday (January 11) Judge Peter Gower said: “It’s clear from the outset that you knew full well that was money that the council had mistakenly paid into the account of Keith Dickenson after he died.
“I have no doubt that you knew that money was intended by the council to cover the cost of providing care services to him appropriate to the level of his disability and knew it was no longer needed for that purpose.
“Instead of returning these you applied them in accordance with your own wishes.”
Adding a further four months custody for the benefit fraud, the judge added: “Your claim for these benefits was fraudulent from the outset.”
Prosecutor Nancy Udom told the court that Sussams had been living in Devon as landlord of the Royal Dart pub and the Croydon flat he claimed benefit on was a pied-a-terre.
The court heard Sussams had previous convictions for producing cannabis in 1996 and for possession of the drug in the 1980s.
Defending, Matthew Groves said: “Dishonesty has been a flaw in his character, but there are considerable aspects of his character that are greatly to his credit.”
He told the judge that a custodial sentence “would be a great burden for him to carry because of his ill health” with diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, obesity and depression.