Couple took £28k because of debts

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A COUPLE who defrauded two councils out of more than £28,000 have been sentenced.

Lee Martin, 37, and Christine Martin, 33, began four years of benefit fraud by dishonestly claiming more than £5,000 from Breckland Council from 2006.

The couple lived in Thetford at the time, moving to Haverhill in 2008 where they claimed more than £6,000 in Housing Benefit and Council Tax benefit over the next two years – despite being in work during that period.

On Tuesday, the Martins were ordered to carry out a combined 390 hours of unpaid work, having pleaded guilty at a previous hearing.

They were also told to pay £150 in costs each.

Carlo Coccaro, in mitigation, told Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court that the couple had deceived the authorities due to their financial struggles.

“The reason for their actions is debt and that debt has not gone away,” he said.

Sentencing the pair, magistrate Joy Watkins-Ellis said the couples’ financial difficulties were no excuse.

“You defrauded the country of money and that is the issue here – not that you were in debt,” she said.

According to Nigel Dulieu, prosecuting for St Edmundsbury Borough Council, the Martins, now of Garland Close, Haverhill, first claimed for income support and Council Tax benefits from Breckland Council in 2006.

On April 23, 2007, Mr Martin began working for ID Technology Group Plc but failed to inform Job Centre Plus or Breckland Council.

In May 2008 the couple moved to Haverhill, applying to St Edmundsbury Borough Council for Housing and Council Tax benefits.

On August 9, 2008, Mr Martin began working for Culina Logistics Ltd. On September 8, 2009, Mrs Martin was employed by Tescos. Neither St Edmundsbury or Job Centre Plus were informed on either occasion.