A MAN who stole thousands of items of fishing tackle and camping gear to sell on the internet has been jailed for two and a half years.

Matthew Hobin, 35, took almost £30,000 worth of goods from local stores while he and his ex-wife were also cheating the benefits system out of tens of thousands of pounds.

His former wife Donna, 35, with whom he was living at the time of the offending and whose eBay account was used, escaped jail and was put on a suspended sentence.

Lynne Henderson, prosecuting, told Swindon Crown Court how two companies based at the Manor Garden Centre in Cheney Manor noticed they were losing a large amount of stock leading police to Mrs Hobin's home in Chippenham Walk, Penhill.

"Officers described the house as a veritable Aladdin's cave. There were boxed items of fishing and camping equipment, DVDs, CDs and books in every room. The police required two long wheel base transit vans to remove items to the police station, " she said.

Hobin was found to have advertised up to £70,000 worth of goods on eBay. It was found he had sold about 5,000 items, all of which he later admitted were stolen.

Miss Henderson said the total of all the items stolen and either sold or stored at the home was in excess of £29,000.

The court was told that the couple were also being investigated by benefits agencies.

Hobin claimed to be living away from his former wife in Manton Street, Rodbourne, while she said she was a single mum living at the Penhill address. As a result they both obtained benefits as single people when in reality they were living together for the majority of the time. He got £10,197.89p he wasn't entitled to and his ex-wife £12,320.

Hobin, admitted 30 counts of theft, 15 of money laundering and asked for 4,494 further offences of theft to be taken into consideration as well as three of benefit fraud.

Mrs Hobin admitted one count of money laundering and two of benefit fraud.

Rob Ross, defending, said both if his clients were damaged' as a result of what they had experienced growing up. Though they had split up, he said, Hobin started staying round at her home to help with looking after their daughters but they were not living as man and wife.

He said that Mr Hobin was a keen carp fisherman and started obsessively collecting fishing tackle before moving on the stealing it and then selling it.

Passing sentence Judge John Dixon told Mr Hobin: "In my judgement this was nothing short of plunder. You behaved over 15 months with breathtaking arrogance and dishonesty. The truth comes out in what you told the police. You did it because it gave you a buzz; you did it because it made you feel good."

He jailed Hobin for 30 months and Mrs Hobin for six months suspended for two years and told her to do 100 hours of community service and a one-year probation order.