By Aoife Nic Ardghail
A man who contacted the Department of Social Welfare in order to “make amends” for falsely claiming over €136,000 in welfare payments has been jailed.
Judge Martin Nolan sentenced David Aminu (42) to two years imprisonment for using his cousin’s name to fraudulently claim various benefits for seven years.
Aminu, a Nigerian national, wrote a letter to the Department in 2015 revealing his real name and date of birth to “make amends” for his offences.
Garda Michael McGreal agreed with Michael Miley BL, defending, that this was because Aminu’s wife and children had become naturalised Irish citizens and he wanted to legalise his status.
Aminu, of Dun Saithne Crescent, Balbriggan, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to sample charges of stealing Family Income Support payments at Ulster Bank, Ennis, Co Clare, on November 16, 2006; Jobseekers Allowance at Balbriggan Post Office, Dublin on December 12, 2007; Supplementary Welfare Allowance at Balbriggan Post Office and AIB College Green, Dublin between 2007 and 2009.
The court heard the total amount stolen between 2007 and 2013 was €136,449. Aminu has no previous convictions.
In imposing the two year sentence, Judge Nolan noted this was a difficult type of crime to detect. He said Aminu “must suffer a term of imprisonment to punish him and deter others.”
Mr Miley told the court that Aminu followed his pregnant wife to Ireland in 2006 after his father had threatened to kill her due to her Christian religion.
Aminu used his UK based cousin’s name to obtain documents allowing him to work to support his family in this country until he became unemployed.
Gda McGreal agreed with counsel that had Aminu not written to the Department, his offending might never have been detected.
The garda told Sinead McGrath BL, prosecuting, that he began an investigation into Aminu after receiving the 2015 letter.
In the letter, Aminu revealed he had been living in the country since 2006 and had used false identification to get a PPS number so he could work to support his family.
Aminu used this same ID to obtain social welfare payments when he became jobless after working for a call centre in Clare and a Tesco in Dublin.
Gda McGreal said records showed in November 2015 Aminu tried to get a new PPS number under his own name.
The court heard that Aminu claimed nearly €86,000 in Jobseekers Allowance, more than €5,800 in Family Income Support, almost €700 in temporary payments as he awaited Jobseekers Allowance and over €40,000 in rent supplements over the seven years.
He also claimed over €3,300 in Exceptional Needs allowance from the Department.
Gda McGreal said Aminu met him voluntarily during the investigation, co-operated fully and outlined how he had paid £4,000 for a drivers license and passport in his UK cousin’s name.
The garda told Ms McGrath that Aminu now had a standing order with the Department to repay some of the debt.
He agreed with Mr Miley that Aminu’s wife, a psychiatric nurse, was paying that standing order as his client was not entitled to work in Ireland.
He further agreed that Aminu had been “forthright” in his dealings, saying: “His co-operation facilitated and provided for a thorough investigation and made it a lot easier for me.”
Mr Miley submitted that his client had not used the amount claimed over the seven years to fund a lavish lifestyle, but had spent it in supporting his family.
He asked the judge to bear in mind that any custodial element would result in Aminu’s eventual deportation and that would deprive his teenage children of their father.
Counsel submitted that his client was remorseful, was unlikely to come to garda attention again and showed a co-operation that was “second to none”.
Judge Nolan said Aminu had taken advantage of the social welfare system as if he was a lawful citizen of the country, but was not entitled to do that under his true identity.
He noted Aminu had a good work history, was unlikely to come before the courts again and was a good family man. He said the only aggravating factor was his crime.
Judge Nolan said this type of crime was difficult enough to detect and there needed to be a certain level of deterrence. He noted the sentence could have long term consequences for Aminu.