A POLISH woman without much English did not let language become a barrier to carrying out fraudulent claims for social welfare, her sentencing judge said.
Justyna Jozwiak, aged 40, of Convent Road, Doneraile, Co Cork, pleaded guilty to multiple charges of claiming social welfare payments to which she was not entitled in respect of paying rent on a house.
She has now confessed to theft charges amounting to a total of €37,500.
There was an interpreter present at Cork Circuit Criminal Court for the case. Noting the presence of the interpreter, Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin asked, “How do you claim money from the Department of Social Welfare if you have no English?
“If the department are prepared to lash out money to someone who does not — or pretends not to — speak the lingo, it is an invitation to be scalped.
“If I walked in and spoke Irish they would turn around and tell me to go home. They couldn’t deal with me — we are used to being discriminated against.”
Garda Michael Nagle explained the background to the fraudulent claims made by the accused.
In relation to language, Garda Nagle said the accused was usually accompanied by someone who would translate for her.
Between June and August 2019 she was receiving an emergency accommodation allowance to which she was genuinely entitled.
But then in August 2019, Cork County Council provided her with accommodation in Doneraile. However, she continued to claim the emergency allowance after that — claiming a total of €35,500 despite having accommodation. The offence involved her presenting forged invoices in furtherance of her false claims. The matter came to light when the department and the local authority realised she was — on paper — living at two different addresses. When challenged in relation to the matter she admitted creating invoices and receiving cheques.
Judge Ó Donnabháin commented: “Linguistic inability is no inhibitor to being fully claims-cognisant.”
Nikki O’Sullivan, defending, said the accused was presently on social welfare and would put something aside each week to pay for what she had taken.
Ms O’Sullivan said the accused was heavily addicted to gambling in casinos. She said the Covid lockdown had been of some benefit in making it impossible for the accused to go to casinos. And the defendant weaned herself off gambling.
Judge Ó Donnabháin said he would adjourn sentencing until September 7.
However, he warned, “I cannot see any way out of it other than a custodial sentence, it is too measured, it is too determined.”