Jail for woman who claimed carers allowance for minding mother in Cork while living abroad

Jail for woman who claimed carers allowance for minding mother in Cork while living abroad

File image of Mary O’Callaghan at Cork Court. Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Cork Courts

A 52-year-old woman who fraudulently claimed €69,000 in carer’s allowance for minding her elderly mother in Cork when she was actually living in London was jailed for 18 months.

Garda John Dineen previously stated that the accused used some of the money to holiday in Barbados, Morocco and other places. Defence barrister Nikki O’Sullivan said that there was some comment on Facebook about a Barbados holiday but she said the accused woman – Mary O’Callaghan – only travelled there for a funeral of a family member of her partner who comes from there.

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin jailed Mary O’Callaghan of Woodvale Road, Beaumont, Blackrock, Cork, at Cork Circuit Criminal Court, saying she paid back €19,000 leaving a substantial unpaid balance.

Ms O’Sullivan BL said the defendant worked in the UK as a painter decorator but was currently out of work as a result of an assault on her in the UK, and did not have further compensation available to pay back at the moment.

The barrister said Mary O’Callaghan was initially entitled to the carer’s allowance when she lived in Cork but continued claiming it after leaving for the UK. Ms O’Sullivan BL said the defendant’s son was caring for his grandmother at the time and continues to do so.

Judge Ó Donnabháin said in respect of Mary O’Callaghan’s offences, “This was an egregious, deliberate abuse of social welfare allowance. 

"She knowingly and deliberately was living abroad while claiming it and there is no doubt she knew what she was doing was fraudulent and was very egregious behaviour, which was in part allowed for by continuous travel over and back the Irish Sea.

“A certain amount of money was repaid which has now fully stopped. There has to be a custodial sentence.” 

Garda Dineen said the money which was fraudulently claimed was partly used by the accused for foreign holidays. He said she was very co-operative with the investigation since she was first approached by gardaí.

Garda Dineen said there were 243 counts of theft representing a total of over €69,000 by fraudulently claiming carer’s allowance for minding her mother in Cork when she (the defendant) was living in London. Payments were made to her from 2013 to 2019.

“It came to the Department’s attention she was not living in the country. A Social Welfare inspector made various enquiries with Ryanair. He witnessed her flying in from Gatwick. And an investigation commenced,” Garda Dineen said.

While there was reference to a much bigger number of charges, the defendant was charged with a total of 20 sample counts of theft.

The 20 counts related to various amounts, mainly €204 but one was for €10,608 – namely a back-payment from 2014 to 2013 to when the application was initially made.

The location for the offences was Ballintemple post office and the charges stated that the amounts were stolen from the Department of Social Protection, contrary to the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud) Act.

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