A COUPLE who fleeced the taxpayer out of tens of thousands of pounds to pay for their Caribbean wedding today faced a public backlash.
Tracy Dougherty is beginning an eight-month prison sentence after she and her husband admitted benefit fraud.
The 38-year-old, who is involved in local amateur rugby, and 60-year-old partner Stephen Turner were caught out by Wigan Council after making false benefit claims totalling almost £85,000 since 2000.
Social media was today full of condemnatory comments, many branding the couple’s behaviour “disgusting”.
Dougherty claimed to be a lone parent of four children and so received Income Support, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit. She failed to tell the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) she was in fact living with Turner in Stanley Place, Scholes, and had been for 12 years.
At the same time driving instructor Turner claimed out-of-work benefits and received an allowance to be his mother’s carer. He failed to declare his income and the savings in his bank accounts.
A joint investigation was launched by Wigan Council and DWP, which found Turner was living with Dougherty and was working as a driving instructor. The couple were also paying large amounts of money into their bank account.
In August 2013, they were arrested at home, officers searched it and found wedding invitations for their vows in Cuba. The wedding had already taken place at the time of the search. A letter from Dougherty to Thomas Cook stating she was “personally paying for 20 of those passengers at a total cost of £19,633,” was also discovered. At the police station, the couple denied living together.
During a later interview, Dougherty admitted marrying Turner in Cuba and to paying for the wedding but still denied living together. Turner denied living with her but admitted working and having excess savings that he failed to declare.
At Liverpool Crown Court Dougherty pleaded guilty to falsely claiming benefits and was jailed for eight months. Turner pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing of failing to declare his work and excess capital.
He was overpaid a total of £4,938.85. He was ordered to pay a £500 fine, £750 in costs and a £2,927.06 confiscation order which held a one month imprisonment for any default. He was unavailable for comment yesterday.