Leeds benefits cheat caught out by Facebook photos of her wedding after claiming to be a single mum

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A benefits cheat who lied about being a single mum in order to illegally claim £31,000 was caught after her wedding pictures appeared on Facebook.

Images of Stephanie Abbey marrying her long-term partner were found on social media at the time she was claiming income support, housing benefit and child tax credits.

Leeds Crown Court

Leeds Crown Court

Leeds Crown Court heard Abbey made a claim for benefits in February 2016.

The 25-year-old signed a form claiming she was a single mum with an 18-month-old child and living in the Robin Hood area of Leeds.

Bashir Ahmed, prosecuting, said an investigation revealed she was actually in a long-term relationship with a man who worked for Arriva bus company.

Abbey made a booking in June 2017 for her wedding which took place in July 2018.

Mr Ahmed said £6,000 was spent on the wedding.

Facebook photographs were later found of the couple celebrating the event.

Other images were discovered of the couple celebrating the fifth anniversary of their relationship.

Abbey’s partner commented on an image posted in October 2016 describing her as his "rock" for the past four years.

Abbey was interviewed about the offences and claimed the relationship with her partner had been "on and off".

Mr Ahmed said Abbey claimed she only put the "good stuff" on social media.

The defendant's partner was interviewed and claimed he had been sleeping in his car in the carpark at work.

He said the money for the wedding had been given to the couple by relatives.

The prosecutor said inquiries were made with Arriva who said he would not have been allowed to sleep overnight in his car on work premises.

Abbey, of Carlton Lane, Rothwell, pleaded guilty to three offences of fraud.

The total value of the offending was £31,196.

Robin Freize, mitigating, said Abbey had pleaded guilty to the offences at an early stage.

Mr Freize said the couple had been in a problematic relationship and were not together at the time she made the initial claim for benefits.

He added: "It was on-off to a degree that she could have reported a change (in circumstances) three times a month."

Abbey was given a six-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months. She was also ordered to do 175 hours of unpaid work.

Judge Christopher Batty said: "It's a lot of money and it's public money and you read about how many children are in poverty and so on.

"Public money is tight. Your money was not tight, but you carried on claiming."