The sunshine swindler: Benefit cheat bride used 10,000 of taxpayers' cash to fund dream wedding in CaribbeanAbigail Martin, from Sussex, received suspended sentence over three-year fraudSpent taxpayers' money on luxury spa treatments and Disney World holiday
14:42 GMT, 14 December 2012
Fraud: Abigail Martin, pictured in Antigua on her wedding day, swindled 10,000 from taxpayers
A benefit cheat who used taxpayers' money to pay for a luxury wedding in the Caribbean has escaped jail.
Abigail Martin spent three years pretending to be a single parent in order to claim more than 10,000 in housing and council tax benefits to which she was not entitled.
During this time she lived a lavish lifestyle, paying frequent visits to luxury hotels and spas, holidaying in Florida and even getting married on the island of Antigua.
The 40-year-old mother of two claimed that she lived alone with her children in Bexhill, Sussex – when in fact she was living with the man she would later marry in a 3,500-a-head ceremony.
Martin was rumbled when benefits workers found out that she had got married without telling them – and were apparently 'stunned' to discover her wedding photographs, which showed her beaming on the sun-drenched island.
Magistrates in Hastings heard that she had used money she swindled from taxpayers to fund her 'very expensive' wedding last year.
She also took her family to Walt Disney World in Florida, where they enjoyed pricey funfair rides and hotels.
And Martin would spend pampered weekends at spa getaways in luxury hotels in Britain.
She falsified documents by failing to declare that she had been living with her partner since 2009 and that the couple were married in 2011.
But when she re-applied for benefits in January this year, workers reported their suspicions and she was subjected to an investigation by Rother District Council and the Department for Work and Pensions.
Officials built a case against the fraudster using evidence which included her tell-tale wedding photos.
Martin pleaded guilty to benefit fraud and received a suspended sentence – despite being told that she would normally have faced jail time.
She was given a 24-week sentence suspended for 18 months, ordered to complete 240 hours of unpaid work and told to pay 2,000 in costs.
Luxury: Martin was married to her partner on the sun-drenched Caribbean island last year (file photo)
A spokesman for Rother District Council said following the court case this week: 'The lifestyle being led by Abigail Martin at the expense of the taxpayer was as remarkable as it was appalling.
'The benefit system should be helping people in genuine need, not people who cheat the system and pay for extravagances of the sort magistrates were told about.
'This should act as a clear message to people who are claiming false benefits. You will be caught and the punishment can be severe.
'Abigail Martin was very fortunate indeed not to go to prison.'
Holiday: Martin also took her family to the Walt Disney World resort in Florida (file photo)