Man to be sentenced in benefits case had claimed over €185,000 in a scam that started in 1995
Jobseeker fraud is among 448 welfare probes before courts
July 19 2022 02:30 AM
A man is due to be sentenced later this month for a social welfare fraud that started in 1995 in which he obtained over €185,000 .
The Dublin-based man used his own name with a false date of birth while being employed, but at the same time he used his real date of birth to claim jobseeker’s allowance as well as illness and disability benefits over many years.
The scam came to light after an investigation by the Department of Social Protection’s Special Investigation Unit, which currently has around a dozen gardaí seconded to it with plans for a recruitment drive in place.
This is one of many hundreds of social welfare fraud cases which are currently being investigated by the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) and the department.
According to figures obtained by the Irish Independent, the Department of Social Protection is currently prosecuting 448 cases at various stages in the court system.
But these are only the more minor cases and they often include investigations into Pandemic Unemployment Payment (Pup) fraud, jobseeker’s allowance, carer’s allowance and fraudulent illness-related payments.
“The figures represent cases which were brought before the court and subject to summary prosecution under social welfare legislation only, and do not include cases which may have been taken by An Garda Síochána under criminal legislation,” a department spokesperson said.
Specialist gardaí investigate the more serious cases, including a prosecution last week in which a 56-year-old man who fraudulently claimed just under €85,000 in jobseeker’s allowance received 20-month jail sentence.
Marius Cristea was employed at a golf club under a false identity, while claiming jobseeker’s allowance under his own name between 2013 and 2020, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard.
Cristea, of Shackleton Terrace, Lucan, pleaded guilty to eight sample counts of social welfare fraud at Dodsboro post office between December 2013 and March 2020.
After he was interviewed by gardaí in 2019 in relation to about €72,000 of fraudulent social welfare claims, Cristea started working under his own name. During this period, he received cash in hand and continued to fraudulently claim a further €11,000 in jobseeker’s allowance.
This week, at various district courts across the country, a number of defendants are due to appear to face charges in relation to claiming PUP even though they were working at the time.
Figures show that there has been three finalised cases so far this year in relation to PUP fraud, but dozens of people are facing prosecution in relation to claiming it when they were not entitled to.
In relation to prosecutions taken by the department, a spokesperson said: “To end June 2022, a total of 29 cases have been finalised in court having been subject to summary prosecution under social welfare legislation.
“Eighty-two cases were finalised in 2021 and 73 cases in 2020. There are a further 448 cases at various stages within the courts system.”
An analysis of data from the department shows that in their finalised cases, by far the most common prosecutions are for “jobseeker’s allowance/ benefit”, with 15 prosecutions completed so far this year compared to 53 last year and 56 in 2020.
“The department’s policy is to recover any funds which have been fraudulently claimed from the social welfare system and to consider for prosecution the more serious cases of fraud,” a spokesperson said.
“The department’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) carries out a wide range of control activities and projects to investigate suspected social welfare fraud.
“In particular, it concentrates on the hidden economy and on sectors where social welfare fraud is most prevalent, with an emphasis on direct intervention and engagement.
“The unit works in co-operation with other anti-fraud authorities, domestically and internationally, and with An Garda Síochána to investigate, and where appropriate, prosecute offences detected under the provisions of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act or the Criminal Justice Acts.
“Cases suitable for prosecution are identified during the course of investigations conducted primarily by the Special Investigation Unit and gardaí seconded to the Special Investigation Unit.
“While the department can take such prosecutions under social welfare legislation, in cases where serious cases of identity fraud or multiple claiming occur, these are generally referred to the gardaí for prosecution under criminal justice legislation.”