Sunday 25 September 2016

Friends of pensioner who fraudulently claimed over €100,000 benefits by using sister's social welfare card help gather repayment cash, court hears

Sonya McLean and Fiona Ferguson

Published 07/06/2016 | 18:19

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Friends of a Dublin pensioner who stole over €100,000 by using her sister's social welfare card to fraudulently claim benefits have gathered €6,000 for her towards repayment of the cash, a court has heard.

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Marie McMahon (68) told gardaí that when her sister Katherine emigrated to the States in 1992, her friend initially used the woman's social welfare card to pick up her benefits. When this woman went into hospital McMahon agreed to continue collecting the payments and they split the money between them.

This woman later died in 2012 and McMahon continued to collect her sister's benefits until she was detected through facial recognition technology in July 2014.

She told officers that she believed if she stopped collecting the money, social welfare would have to start an investigation and she would be caught, so she decided to continue with the fraud.

McMahon of Aideen Avenue, Terenure pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 13 charges of stealing various amounts of social welfare payments from James's Street Post Office on dates between September 1, 2002 and June 11, 2014. She has one previous conviction for possession of drugs from 1979.

Judge Melanie Greally initially heard evidence in the case in March and had adjourned it to allow her consider testimonials handed into court and to allow time for a probation report to be prepared.

At the original sentence hearing Lorcan Staines BL, defending, had handed in a large volume of testimonials and said his client had been involved in a protest movement in relation to woman's rights for many years.

Today Mr Staines said that since her last court appearance friends of McMahon had become aware of the case due to the media attention and had gathered €6,000 towards repayment of the money stolen. She would also have her benefits reduced by €15 per week.

He said she would not be able to repay the money in her lifetime but was making these efforts. He asked the court to take into account her age and medical difficulties.

Judge Greally said McMahon appeared to be someone who had gathered very useful skills over her lifetime and the possibility of community service warranted investigation. She noted it was possible that McMahon may not be medically fit but she adjourned the case to October for the probation service to assess suitability.

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