Single mum accused of welfare fraud 'thought Vegas wedding not legal'
A mother-of-four on trial for unlawfully obtaining almost €30,000 in one-parent family social welfare payments has claimed her drunken Las Vegas wedding was just "a bit of fun" and she did not know it was legal in Ireland.
Michelle Burke (39), from Cappagh Road, Finglas, Dublin, is being prosecuted by the Department of Social Protection. The total alleged fraud was €29,773 and it was the prosecution's case that she got married and failed to notify the department while claiming the one-parent family payment between November 2010 and August 2012, which she denies.
The trial heard she had been in receipt of the one-parent family payment since 1997 and was receiving €317 a week.
Social welfare inspector Helen O'Reilly told prosecuting counsel Gareth Robinson BL that in 2011 and in 2013 reviews were conducted and Ms Burke was sent forms inquiring if her circumstances had changed but she signed declarations that they had not.
However, the social welfare inspector told Judge John Brennan at Dublin District Court there was a suspicion she may have been cohabiting with a partner. An investigation commenced and the inspector was able to obtain a copy of a marriage certificate from the US. It confirmed Ms Burke got married to her partner on November 6, 2010, at the Hollywood Wedding Chapel, Las Vegas. The inspector told defence counsel Matthew Holmes BL the marriage was legally binding.
In the witness box, Ms Burke said she had gone to the US for a few days with a group of people for a 13th birthday party.
Questioned about the marriage ceremony, she claimed: "We just thought it was funny". Asked why she did not remember much about it, she replied: "Because we were drunk".
The judge adjourned the case to consider legal submissions from the prosecution and the defence. The case resumes in May.