A DUBLIN man fraudulently lived off disability benefits for nearly two years after he moved to Malaysia where he quit drugs, got married and started a family, a court has heard.
Raymond Pullen (31) from Pine Road, Ringsend is to be sentenced in April after he pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court to 21 sample charges for theft of sums totalling €16,821 from the Department of Social Protection over 91 weeks from September 2010 until June 2012.
Detective Garda Bryan Hunt told Judge William Early that on September 3, 2010, Pullen went to Malaysia. An investigation began after Gardaí received confidential information that he was still there almost two years later 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country the weekly payments had been lodged into his bank account in Dublin and it was learned that the money was then “withdrawn in Malaysian Ringgits”.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 which was handling his case suspended the payments in June 2012 at which he returned to Ireland and claimed “he had only been on holidays for four weeks”.
Later that day, gardaí went to his home in Dublin with a warrant under the Theft and Fraud Offences Act. Pullen's passport was examined and it revealed details of his travels.
The 31-year-old, who has no prior criminal convictions, agreed to be interviewed and “made full admissions” that he had received 91 disability benefit payments while he was residing in Malaysia.
Judge Early was told that to date Pullen, who is currently unemployed, has repaid €450; the Department of Social Protection are now deducting €20 a week from his benefit payments to recoup the money.
Defence barrister Ruadhan Mac Aodhain said Pullen had been a chronic heroin user from 2002 until 2010. His brother had also 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 November 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.
The former heroin addict 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, Pullen's lawyer asked the court to note.
In Malaysia, he used the money to provide for himself as well as his wife and his child, and is now supporting them in Dublin, the judge also heard.
Currently, he is taking part in a community employment scheme and attending a drug addiction rehabilitation programme at the Spellman Centre in Ringsend, in Dublin. He is also more mature and drug free, his barrister said.
A letter from the addiction treatment centre was handed in to the judge to read. Mr Mac Aodhain said this set out the changes in Pullen's behaviour and suggested that a custodial sentence would be detrimental to his recovery.
Judge Early noted that Pullen, who is on bail, had pleaded guilty and did not have a criminal record and he added that he took the submissions of the defence barrister into consideration. However, he said “There are tax payers the length and breadth of the country working hard to keep Mr Pullen in Malaysia for two years.”
He adjourned sentencing until a date in April when a probation report on Pullen will be furnished to the court.