Welfare probe finds claimants 'owned top of the range cars'
Published 27/06/2015 | 02:30
Two people have had their social welfare payments suspended after a Garda investigation found they were the owners of a top of the range 2015 Mercedes and a new Toyota HiLux.
The probe was launched after officials received information that the duo, who have never worked and have claimed benefits since the age of 18, were living an extravagant lifestyle.
The investigation, which is continuing, is one of several detailed in a dossier prepared for TDs by the Department of Social Protection.
Officials found the pair had a lifestyle which was "not commensurate with social welfare dependency".
The briefing document, submitted to the Dáil Public Accounts Committee, reveals how a special investigations unit has raided a number of homes and seized false identity papers used to commit social welfare fraud.
It has also used new facial recognition software to catch fraudsters, including one person who admitted to making bogus social welfare claims since 2005.
Some 20 gardaí have been seconded to the unit since last December to assist 90 social protection staff.
According to the department, two homes were searched earlier this year as part of an investigation into suspected welfare fraud involving around €100,000.
It said the case involved two people who were suspected of making bogus claims "over an extended period of time" using false identity papers.
In another case, false documents were seized during a search which took place after investigations confirmed a person was working full-time under an assumed identity.
The man involved was arrested for fraud and admitted to acquiring a birth certificate in England. He used this to obtain a driver's licence in Ireland.
A bank account was opened in the false name and the man was able to use the driver's licence to secure a PPS number.
He was released from custody and a file is to be submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Another suspected fraudster was arrested earlier this year for allegedly impersonating someone else to claim benefits.
In this case, the suspect was claiming social welfare payments due to a person who has been out of the country. Evidence from CCTV and payment receipts are being used as part of the probe, which is ongoing.
In another investigation, gardaí questioned a social welfare claimant at Dublin Airport in April who had flown in and out of the country on 52 occasions in just four months. He had not advised the department of any of these absences.
Gardai also arrested a man who came to Ireland as an asylum seeker a decade ago after facial recognition software, used in conjunction with the new public service card, indicated he may have been making bogus benefits claims.
The total amount claimed in the case was around €43,500.