A council housing manager defrauded his employers of £300,000 to help “vulnerable” people because he felt guilty, a court heard.
Stuart Burrell, 42, forged invoices and letters from housing suppliers while working for Southend Borough Council.
Basildon Crown Court heard the world-record breaking escapologist had not benefitted personally and wanted to help “put a roof over people’s heads”.
Burrell, of Eastcote Grove, Southend, was jailed for 18 months on Friday.
He had pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud by abuse of position and one count of attempted fraud by abuse of position.
The court was told Burrell felt guilty and had made a promise never to harm anyone after an elderly couple froze to death when he had inadvertently cut off their gas supply while working for an energy company in 2001.
The court was told how he “cut corners” to give public funding to two Southend housing projects run by Mustafa Ahmed, after rule changes meant they may not have been eligible.
He also invented invoices to pay rent for a family without a home just before Christmas 2016.
In mitigation, Trevor Archer told the court Burrell had suffered a breakdown two months before he began his crimes in May 2015.
He said: “This is an unusual case. It is agreed Stuart Burrell did not benefit financially and his whole intention was to assist those he felt were vulnerable.”
But Judge David Owen-Jones said: “It is the hard working residents of Southend who suffered.
“They are the council tax payers and everybody knows how difficult it is with reduced income for local councils to operate.”
A spokesman for Southend-on-Sea Borough Council said Burrell was no longer employed by the council and it was “reviewing our internal procedures to help minimise the risk of this happening again”.
Burrell currently holds the world records for the fastest escape from a pair of double-locked regulation prisoner transport irons, and for most handcuffs unlocked in one minute – nine.