19 May 2022

Man who falsely claimed over €100,000 in social welfare payments jailed

Man who falsely claimed over €100,000 in social welfare payments jailed

A man who falsely claimed over €100,000 in social welfare payments while continuing to work has been jailed for one year.

Frank O'Donnell (56) claimed the money using his own name while being paid for construction work under the name Martin O'Donnell.

O'Donnell of Belgard Park, Cookstown Road, Tallaght, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to thefts of Disability Allowance at various locations in Tallaght on dates between September 3, 2004 and September 11, 2011.

He also pleaded guilty to possession of a false instrument to wit a safe pass in the name Martin O'Donnell at ESB, Fleet Street, Dublin City centre, on November 9, 2017. He has 11 previous convictions, including five convictions for possession of counterfeit notes.

Detective Garda Anna Matheson told Kieran Kelly BL, prosecuting, that the offending came to light in 2017 when the accused's niece was being interviewed by an officer from the Department of Social Protection.

Det Gda Matheson said that as part of this interview, the accused's niece provided bank statements which showed payments in the name of Martin O'Donnell going into her bank account. She explained that her uncle used her account as he did not have his own.

Further investigation established that “Martin O'Donnell” was working with a construction firm and the investigating officer received a copy of this man's safe pass. The picture on this safe pass was in fact of the accused.

O'Donnell had been in receipt of disability allowance beginning in 2002, but was employed for various periods of time between June 2004 and November 2017. During these periods he falsely claimed a total of €100,469.10.

Det Gda Matheson agreed with Ian Woodland BL, defending, that there were no trappings of wealth in his client's home. She agreed his client is making repayments of €30 a week which comes from his social welfare and that around €3,500 has been repaid to date.

The detective agreed that O'Donnell is genuinely remorseful for what he has done.

Mr Woodland submitted that the impetus behind his client's offending behaviour is his addiction to alcohol and cocaine, which he currently seems to be “overcoming”.

Judge Melanie Greally said it seemed the detection of these offences prompted a “sea change” in O'Donnell's approach to his addiction and mental health and he has made “large strides”.

Judge Greally said the accused committed these offences over “a very extended period of time”. She said it seems clear that if he was not detected, he would have continued to claim while working for as long as he was able to do that.

She said analysis of his urine has been clear of any illicit substances. She said a doctor's report before the court states that if the accused can continue his engagement with mental health and addiction therapy, then his risk of reoffending is at a low level.

Judge Greally sentenced O'Donnell to two-and-a-half years imprisonment, but suspended the final 18 months of the sentence on strict conditions.

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