A Dublin man has avoided a jail term for “a dirty little scheme” of fraudulently claiming more than €43,000 in social welfare over a four year period using his brother’s identity.
The court heard that Martin Foley claimed roughly €188 in Job Seeker's Allowance every week from his local post office using his brother’s social welfare card.
Foley, who has a chronic alcohol addiction, was also claiming disability allowance during the same period.
His brother, Brendan Foley, has been living in the UK since the mid-80s and knew nothing of the fraud.
Foley (aged 53) of Walnut Rise, Courtlands, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to nine counts of deceptively inducing another to make a payment of Job Seeker’s Allowance, using a social welfare card in the name of Brendan Foley, at a post office on Drumcondra Road Lower and the Social Welfare Office on Kings Inns Street, between August 2007 and November 2011.
He also pleaded guilty to filling out a false ML10 identity form in the name of Brendan Foley at Whitehall Garda Station on March 5, 2011.
The Director of Public Prosecutions accepted these 10 sample counts from a total of 63 charges, and the remainder were taken into consideration.
Judge Donagh McDonagh described it as a “carefully, well thought-out plan” with no consideration for the people of Ireland who were funding his “dirty little scheme”.
He said Foley also had no consideration for his brother’s name which he was quite prepared “to drag through the muck”.
The judge said it was “quite remarkable” that Foley was capable of drinking the 120 units of alcohol he had been on a daily basis and survive it.
He accepted evidence that Foley regularly drank 50 bottles of beer and 3 bottles of vodka a day.
He accepted that Foley has since “got some class of grip” on his alcohol abuse but said he must make some form of recompense for the crime.
Judge McDonagh sentenced Foley to 18 months in prison which he suspended in full on the condition that he keep the peace and be of good behaviour for two years and repay the State €1,000 within 18 months.
Paul Carroll BL, prosecuting had told the judge that due a recent amendment of the Social Welfare Act, the minister can reduce the social welfare payment by up to 15% “in order to discharge a liability of a person”.
He said Foley is currently on an emergency welfare payment of €186 as his disability allowance payment is under investigation and has been stopped.
Detective Garda Martin Doohan said that Foley initially denied the allegations during garda interview, describing them as “a load of crap” and only admitted to collecting the dole on his brother’s behalf “three or four times”.
“I never pretended to be Brendan Foley. I might have used his name but I never went out to look like him,” he said.
He later admitted to the allegations after being shown CCTV footage of him entering and leaving the post office on different occasions.
The court heard that Brendan Foley was angry with his brother when he discovered what had been going on and reported the fraud to the gardaí, but the investigation was dropped after he travelled back to the UK.
Det Gda Doohan agreed with Breffni Gordon BL, defending, that the money had been “squandered” and that Foley’s home showed “no trappings of wealth”.
Mr Gordon said Foley was living alone in the family home and his elderly mother, who is 93-years-old, is living in a nursing home.
Mr Gordon said Foley had overdosed on medication four times in 2006, and three times in a 10-month period on another occasion.
Det Gda Doohan, of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, told Mr Carroll that an investigation was launched following a complaint by the Department of Social Protection in April 2010.
Foley had handed in a number of forms in his brother’s name to dishonestly claim Jobseeker's Allowance, including a birth cert, FÁS cert, Social Services Card and a tax form.
Det Gda Doohan said that Foley collected the money on a weekly basis – which ranged from €180 to €190, and also signed on at the Social Welfare office on Kings Inns Street every three months.
The court heard that a total of €43,300 was collected and none of the money has been recovered.
Mr Gordon began to tell the court that Foley had recently married a lady from the Mauritius, but was interrupted by Judge McDonagh, who quipped: “She’s blessed.”
The court heard that it was a “marriage of convenience” which is currently under investigation by the Garda Bureau of Immigration.
“He has nothing in life, so to speak. This is a very lonely man with chronic health issues,” Mr Gordon said.
Judge McDonagh pointed out that the State shouldn't be left to “carry the can for his wrongdoings.”
He had adjourned the case overnight having heard the evidence yesterday.
At the earlier hearing, the judge questioned whether he could impose a suspended sentence that would include an obligation for Foley to use any future inheritance from the sale of the family home to reimburse the taxpayer for “the swindling that has gone in the past”.
Mr Carroll told the court that the family home would ultimately be sold but said the proceeds would be used to discharge Foley’s mother’s nursing home fees and the balance would be distributed between her nine children.
Judge McDonagh insisted that Foley would suffer at least one deduction from his social welfare which would act as a “drip feed” to recuperate the State, but added that that if he comes into money in the future, that should also be used to pay off his debt.