A father-of-four who used false IDs to fraudulently claim €478,000 in social welfare payments was yesterday sentenced to five years in prison.
David Church of Parnell St, Dublin and formerly of Monadreen, Thurles, Co Tipperary, faced 199 charges of unlawfully claiming jobseekers’ benefit and rent allowance at various Dublin post offices between 2002 and 2013.
Church, aged 39, pleaded guilty to 13 sample counts at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. The theft averaged about €40,000 a year over the period of offending.
The court heard Church had drunk or gambled most of the money and had no accumulated wealth when arrested in July 2013.
The fraud came to light after the Department of Social Protection used facial recognition software to establish the same photo was being used on a number of social welfare identities.
Judge Martin Nolan said it was a serious fraud on the State and, therefore, on the people of the country.
He said the chief purpose of the social welfare system was to extend help to people who need it, and it had to be user-friendly. But he said Church had taken advantage of the system.
Judge Nolan complimented officers from the department and gardaí for their diligence and hard work in detecting the scam.
Detective Garda Colin Rochford said Church had created six false identities by going to the UK and obtaining people’s birth certificates. He paid £10 for each birth cert.
Det Rochford told Tony McGillicuddy BL, prosecuting, that no one in this State had been affected by the false use of identities.
Officials in the department became suspicious in 2013 after facial image-matching showed four people claiming social welfare had the same photograph. The identities were in the names of Adam Cole, Paul Anthony O’Brien, Derek O’Brien and Darren O’Brien.
Officers attended a post office in Tallaght on July 29 and watched a man on CCTV claiming benefits in the name of Derek O’Brien. On the same day, the same man claimed benefits in Clondalkin in the name of Paul Anthony O’Brien.
Gardaí stopped Church and he produced a driving licence in his own name.
His car was found to contain documents in the names of three different people. Church initially only admitted to falsely using the name of Derek O’Brien to claim benefits but later went voluntarily to gardaí and admitted fraudulently using a further five names.
He had no previous convictions.
Sean Guerin SC, defending, said Church had used the money to drink, gamble and pay loans.
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