Son’s welfare bank account was opened after he died

A woman “tricked” the Department of Social Protection into paying money into an account which she opened in the name of her dead son.

Days before he died, the teenager’s application for a disability allowance had been granted, the Circuit Criminal Court in Tralee heard, in what the woman’s defence counsel described as a “bizarre case”.

Jean Anne McCarthy, aged 44, of Cois Coille, Tralee, Co Kerry, opened a bank account in the name of her son Dylan, 24 days after he had been killed in a car crash near Killarney on November 1, 2014.

She has pleaded guilty to 25 accounts of theft from the department between December 3, 2014, and May 27, 2015.

Dylan, who the court heard had mental health difficulties, had been approved by the department for a weekly disability allowance of €188 days before his death, and this was being paid into his account in Ulster Bank.

On November 25, accompanied by an unidentified young person, Ms McCarthy went to Bank of Ireland in Tralee and opened a second level account for the Dylan.

His disability allowances — to a total sum of €7,940.80 — were now paid by the department into this account.

The money was withdrawn for the most part in cash through ATM facilities, or in point of sale transactions, and Sky digital payments were also made, Detective Garda John Alfred said in evidence at yesterday’s sentencing hearing.

Det Alfred said the investigation began when the department received a phonecall that Dylan had gone to Australia. The department made enquiries and found “he had in fact passed away on November 1”, he told Tom Rice, prosecuting.

Questioned by gardaí, Ms McCarthy admitted she was the sole person responsible for the withdrawals — but could not remember much about opening the account.

Essentially her son was dead at the time the account was opened and she had “tricked” the department into paying into it, and accordingly she was guilty of theft on each occasion, the garda agreed with Mr Rice.

Brian McInerney, defending, said this was “a bizarre case”. Ms McCarthy was a carer with her husband for her four remaining children.

Suddenly in a car crash her son had died and she got the news every parent dreaded.

After the tragic accident, she was prescribed medication, and she had said her life was “in a haze”, and had very little recollection of opening the account, the garda agreed with Mr McInerney.

Ms McCarthy had entered into an agreement to pay €50 a week from her own social welfare benefit to the department, Mr McInerney said.

Some €7,614 — of the €7,940 total— was left to repay. However, there had been “a personal injuries benefit to a family member” and the €7,614 had now been lodged into the client account of her solicitor, Pa Daly, to be paid to the department, Mr McInerney told Judge Thomas E O’Donnell.

The judge adjourned the matter for finalisation.

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