A Sligo woman who fraudulently claimed her dead father’s pension for six years has been given a 12-month suspended sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.
Clodagh Smiley (aged 33) began claiming the pension in fortnightly instalments on behalf of her mother when she died in 2001.
Sergeant Maeve O’Sullivan revealed that Smiley’s father, a former Telecom Eireann employee, had passed away in 1973 and her mother had been receiving cheques from the company until her own death.
Smiley told gardaí that she had signed declaration forms, which her mother had filled out before her death, and sent them into Eircom each year until she moved from the family home in 2008.
Eircom became suspicious of fraud when it stopped receiving the declaration forms and discovered the address on the documents was unoccupied.
Smiley, a mother-of-five of Camross, Ballymoate, pleaded guilty to using a false instrument to induce another to accept it as genuine at Eircom, 5 Dame Lane, Dublin between January 1, 2002 and December 12, 2007. She has no previous convictions.
Sgt O’Sullivan told Mr Michael Bowman BL, prosecuting, that Eircom had initially sent cheques every fortnight until 2003, when it switched to paying the amounts directly into Smiley’s bank account.
A welfare officer went to the address listed on the forms when the documents ceased arriving in 2008 to find out if Smiley’s mother was still alive.
Sgt O’Sullivan said Smiley presented at Sligo Garda Station when the fraud was uncovered and revealed she’d spent the €51,960 received over the years on groceries and the upkeep of her mother’s home.
When asked if anyone else had put her up to claiming the pension she replied: “No, my own stupid self.”
Smiley explained that her mother had died of cancer, that she had been depressed as a result and had used the money to try and “keep up” her home place.
She added that she was “truly, truly sorry” and said she could probably pay back €100 a week.
Sgt O’Sullivan agreed with Ms Marie Torrens BL, defending, that her client had attended Ireland’s Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) to see how much she could pay back and discovered it would be just €13 a week.
The sergeant further agreed that Smiley hadn’t come to adverse garda attention since, that she had five young children and a partner with a drink problem.
Ms Torrens submitted to Judge Patrick McCartan that Smiley had been co-operative, had entered an early guilty plea and “laments her irresponsible actions.”
Ms Torrens submitted that her client had used the money to maintain the house and pay for groceries.
She submitted that Smiley’s family has no contact with her because she has had five children out of wedlock.
Judge McCartan acknowledged that Smiley has no prospect of repaying the money and imposed a 12-month prison sentence which he suspended in full.