Man claimed benefit while living in Malaysia

A Dublin man who fraudulently lived off Irish disability benefits for almost two years while in Malaysia, where he quit drugs and started a family, has been given suspended jail terms totalling 12 months.

Raymond Pullen, aged 31, from Pine Rd, Ringsend, had pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court to 21 sample charges of theft totalling €16,821 from the Department of Social Protection over 91 weeks, from Sept 2010 until Jun 2012.

Judge William Early was furnished with a probation report yesterday, showing that Pullen had managed to stay off drugs. He noted that it was his first offence and a guilty plea had been entered at an early stage.

Earlier, Judge Early said: “There are taxpayers the length and breadth of the country working hard to keep Mr Pullen in Malaysia for two years.”

He imposed three consecutive four-month sentences, with the remaining charges taken into consideration. However, he suspended them on condition that Pullen does not reoffend within the next two years and remains under supervision of the Probation Service for the next 12 months.

Detective Garda Bryan Hunt said Pullen wen to Malaysia on Sept 3, 2010. Almost two years later, gardaí received confidential information that he was still there and “was in receipt of disability while present in Malaysia”.

The Department of Social Protection confirmed that while he was out of the country the weekly payments had been lodged into his bank account in Dublin, and it was learned that the money was then “withdrawn in Malaysian Ringgits”.

The social welfare office handling his case stopped the payments in Jun 2012, at which point he returned to Ireland and claimed “he had only been on holidays for four weeks”. Later that day, gardaí went to his home to examine his passport, which revealed details of his travels.

Pullen “made full admissions” that he received 91 disability benefit payments while residing in Malaysia.

When evidence was heard in February, Judge Early was told that Pullen, who is unemployed, had repaid €450; the Department of Social Protection is deducting €20 a week from his benefit payments to recoup the money.

Defence barrister Ruadhán Mac Aodháin said Pullen had been a chronic heroin user from 2002 until 2010. His brother had died of a heroin overdose in 2009 and the following year Pullen went to Malaysia to “meet who was to become his future wife”.

In Nov 2010, Pullen got married in Malaysia. He and his wife had a baby there the following year, and during his time abroad he also managed to quit heroin, the court heard.

Pullen admitted on his arrest that while he was living overseas he had continued to draw the disability allowances which he had been allowed as a result of having a learning difficulty, his lawyer said.

In Malaysia, he used the money to provide for himself, his wife and child, and is now supporting them in Dublin, the judge heard.

He is now taking part in a community employment scheme and attending a drug addiction rehabilitation programme.

He is more mature and is now drug-free, his barrister had said.

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