Man’s social welfare fraud exceeded €50k

A Longford man has admitted a string of social welfare frauds involving more than €50,000.

The charges stretch back almost 10 years, Longford Circuit Criminal Court heard.

Patrick Stokes, aged 37, of Lanna Aoibhinn, St Michael’s Rd, Longford, had been sent forward to the circuit court after signing guilty pleas to 246 fraud charges in the district court.

Judge Tony Hunt was yesterday told by Des Dockery, prosecuting, that the State would accept pleas being affirmed by the accused to 13 sample charges from the list on the basis that full facts would be outlined to the court.

Dara Foynes, defending, told the court that the sum involved exceeded €50,000.

The facts were admitted by her client, who has no previous convictions.

Stokes affirmed his guilty plea to charges dating back to January 2005 and including fraud offences in every year from 2007 to 2010.

They include offences of stealing sums of cash from the social protection minister at Renmore Post Office in Galway and at Permanent TSB in Main St, Longford.

The sums involved ranged from €185 in 2005 to €960 in 2007.

In addition, Stokes admitted completing jobseeker’s allowance forms at the social welfare offices in Ballinalee Rd, Longford, and using a copy of a UK driving licence in another person’s name for the purpose of opening a bank account.

The accused did not speak during the court hearing other than to indicate to the court that he was affirming his pleas of guilty.

Judge Hunt acceded to an application from Ms Foynes to order a Probation and Welfare Service report on Stokes.

The judge noted that Stokes should get full credit for his signed pleas of guilty, but pointed out that the offences had taken place over an extended period of time.

Ms Foynes accepted the judge’s observations, but pointed out that there were “extenuating circumstances” in the case.

Judge Hunt, who was appointed to the High Court last week, has deferred sentencing in the case to February.

Stokes spent some time consulting with his legal team after the case and emerged from the court with his hand over his face to avoid the waiting media.


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