ALEXANDRIA — A Hunterdon County couple has admitted to being welfare cheats while living tax-free in a home the township considers a church.

Christopher Pennetta, 52, and Catherine Pennetta, of the Pittstown section, pleaded guilty to third-degree theft by deception and have agreed to pay $70,000 in restitution to Hunterdon County Social Services.

After their arrest in October 2016, a grand jury in March indicted the pair on third-degree charges of theft and failure to pay taxes as well as fourth-degree charges of running an unlicensed home improvement contracting business and falsifying records.

Hunterdon County Prosecutor Anthony P. Kearns III said the couple filed false applications for Social Security and welfare benefits in 2014. They also didn't pay income taxes in 2014 and 2015.

NJ.com reported earlier this year that the couple lived in a home that was listed as a church and parsonage, and therefore exempt from property taxes. Neighbors complained about the tax exemption, saying no services were being held, but township officials said the exemption was valid.

The two will be sentenced by a Superior Court judge in February.

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Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.