LIVERPOOL, England, Thursday March 19, 2015 – When British sweethearts Tracey Dougherty and Stephen Turner exchanged vows in an idyllic oceanfront ceremony in Cuba, there was no outward indication that their dream wedding would turn into a nightmare that subsequently saw the bride behind bars and the groom ordered to repay monies fraudulently obtained.
But the couple had cheated taxpayers out of £90,000 in falsely claimed benefits then used part of the proceeds to fund their lavish Caribbean wedding, for which they even flew in 20 guests for £20,000.
It was the latter extravagance that sealed the couple’s fate when their deception was discovered by police searching their Wigan home. During the search, lawmen found wedding invitations on which Dougherty boasted about paying for guests’ flights to Cuba.
Dougherty and Turner had falsely claimed tens of thousands of pounds together over a period of 15 years and were on bail for fraud at the time they tied the knot in the Caribbean.
Dougherty, 38, had told officials she was a single mother of four in order to claim income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit, while 60-year-old Turner claimed out-of-work benefits despite being a self-employed driving instructor.
Dougherty had in fact moved in with Turner, who also received government handouts as his mother’s carer at one time.
On her own behalf, Dougherty had falsely claimed more than £84,000 over 12 years, all the while living with Turner.
The couple were arrested in August 2013 when officials suspected they had been committing benefit fraud.
After denying living together, they tied the knot the following month in Cuba while on bail, the conditions of which did not prevent them from travelling abroad.
They both pleaded guilty to falsely claiming benefits at Liverpool Crown Court.
The new Mrs Turner was jailed for eight months, while her husband was ordered to repay monies fraudulently claimed.