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26 Jan 2015

Glamour model fiddled £44k in benefits

A glamour model fraudulently claimed more than £40,000 in benefits including disability allowance - while starring in a Playboy film, a court heard.

Julia Martinez, 43, said she was too sick to work, but was earning money in photo shoots and movies.

She kept a diary saying she was "'very lucky" to "own her house, was slim and attractive and to have a benefit system that allows me to live comfortably".

Martinez claimed more than £44,000 in benefits while working as an actor and running a successful photography company and a modelling career.

She pleaded guilty to several counts of fraud after claiming she was too ill to work.

The seven counts of fraud related to income support, council tax and disability living allowance.

She made several false representations and even went to the lengths of changing her name or sending money to Spain to avoid getting caught.

George Threlfall, prosecuting, told how Martinez loved money, whether earned or received through benefits, with some of her claims made as early as 2008.

He said: "Her diary is a fascinating insight into someone who was clearly obsessed by money, making it both honestly and dishonestly. She said the benefit system was fair game. Miss Martinez has done her best to cover her tracks, by using aliases and transferring money from the UK to Spain. She works as a model or as a photographer. She had her own businesses, one of which was called Shoot the Bride. There was a sister company called Shoot the Moon. We also seized a DVD. It was clear she had acted in a Playboy DVD."

At an earlier hearing, Martinez, from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, pleaded guilty to five of the seven counts, with her most recent plea coming on the day her trial was meant to begin.

Martinez's income support claims amounted to £27,908.67, her disability claim to £14,112 and her council tax relief claim to £2,178.63, equalling £44,199.30.

Rob Lancaster, mitigating, said how his client had a history of mental health and was trying to get away from an abusive and horrid past.

He said: "Miss Martinez has suffered serious depression since her 20s, long before she made her first claim. She was trying to take steps to move forward with her life. These steps should have been disclosed. The fact is that she was someone trying to get away from benefits, not live a life on them."

Mr Lancaster told the court that when she was told she could not have children in 2005, it hit her hard - with Martinez reaching her lowest point in 2008.

He said: "She suffered abuse as a child - both physically and mentally. She is a lady who has always sought the help of others to improver herself. Her life goal was to have children. It took her right back to when she was young. Up to that point, she had never made a benefit claim."

Martinez pleaded to one count of making false representations when claiming income support and one count of failing to update the DWP on her change of situation.

She also pleaded guilty to one count of falsely claiming disability allowance and two counts of claiming she was entitled to council tax relief.

Judge William Hart sentenced her to a nine-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months.

Martinez may have to pay a fine, but that could not be decided at the hearing and will be dealt with in June.

Judge Hart said: "The view the crown takes of you and the one your friends, family and defence do, is like two different people being spoken of. That often happens on a fraud case that the crown sees someone who has cheated the system. The defence see the reason someone finds themselves in that position. It often lies somewhere between those extremes. You are undoubtedly a woman who combines disabilities and abilities. I suspect the affect of all this is you never want to see the inside of a court again."

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