Gangs target Covid payments: Man arrested for 70 fake PUP applications worth €165k

Gangs target Covid payments: Man arrested for 70 fake PUP applications worth €165k

A Garda statement said a warning was issued to the public last June in relation to a phishing email purporting to be from the Courts Service.

Gardaí suspect there are other cases of gangs defrauding the State of Covid unemployment payments after arresting a key target in Cork.

The suspect, a west African national, is suspected of stealing over €165,000 from the State through more than 70 fake pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) applications.

Gardaí believe most, if not all, of the €165,000 is gone and will not be recovered, and they suspect other people were involved in perpetrating the scam.

A Garda statement said a warning was issued to the public last June in relation to a phishing email purporting to be from the Courts Service, where individuals were told they had been selected for jury service.

“Over 70 persons responded to this fraudulent message and provided personal data,” it said. 

This data was used to make fraudulent applications for PUP and resulted in over €165,000 being paid out.

It said gardaí seconded to the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, along with the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and local gardaí in Cork, identified and arrested a suspect on Tuesday.

He was being detained under section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984 at Midleton Garda Station and could be held for up to 24 hours.

Gardaí from Cork City and county took part in the operation. It is understood gardaí have gathered CCTV footage as part of their investigation.

“The question is how much of this is going on that we don’t know about," said one source. "We suspect there is more. 

"We came across a few different ones in the last number of months, that people had no idea was going on.” 

The investigation is thought to have uncovered the relative ease of defrauding the PUP scheme once fraudsters have personal details, including PPS numbers.

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