Grandmother guilty of €58k benefit fraud avoids jail
A grandmother, who used a bogus PPS number and ID to unlawfully get €60,000 in benefits, has been spared a jail sentence.
Care assistant and mother-of-six, Christina Mulhall (58) from Lower Sean McDermott Street, Dublin 1, was ordered by Judge John Brennan to carry out 200 hours community service in lieu of a six-month jail sentence.
She was prosecuted following an investigation by the Department of Social Protection.
The health care worker had pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court to charges under the Social Welfare Consolidation Act for unlawfully obtaining benefits in two separate frauds going back to 2007.
Earlier, Judge Brennan had said “it is very hard to see how a custodial sentence will not be imposed” and when the case resumed today he noted the offences took place over a lengthy period. There was substantial level of mala fides involved in the falsifying of a PPS number, he added.
He also noted, however, that a positive probation report on her suitability for a community service order was furnished to the court. It also stated the woman was deemed to be at a low risk of re-offending and she has a strong family network.
A dole fraud offence at district court level can also result in a fine of up to €2,500 and a possible six-month sentence per charge in addition to having to repay the social welfare authorities. They can also continue to recoup money owed after criminal proceedings have concluded.
Prosecution solicitor Joseph Maguire told the court that Mulhall carried out two frauds relating to disability benefits and the one parent family payment.
Each involved misuse of a fake PPS number and ID to facilitate and aggravate both frauds, he said.
The one parent family payment fraud, from July 2007 until July 2009 netted €29,775 and the disability claim, from April 2010 until January 2013, resulted in her getting €28,676.
The total fraud was €58,451 and the court also heard she is repaying it at a rate of €15 a week. So far she has given back about €900, Judge Brennan had been told at an earlier hearing in February.
Her barrister asked the court to note there were peculiar personal circumstances; Mulhall's marriage ended 13 years ago but the mother-of-six got no maintenance payments.
She had a zero hour contract job as a care assistant in Dublin but her wages varied between €200 and €400 a week. She works with disabled children and with and elderly patients who have Alzheimer’s disease, the barrister said.
A letter from a patient was handed in to court during defence pleas for leniency. Counsel defending said Mulhall was worried the outcome of the case could affect her ability to retain her position and to pay back what is owed.
Pleading for her to be spared a jail term, the barrister also said that the woman is making a contribution to her community and takes care of a son and a grandchild.