Crackdown after dead man's pension claimed for 23 years
STRINGENT controls have been put in place in order to crack down on pension frauds, both An Post and the Department of Social Protection said last night.
They were commenting after an elderly man was given a three-year suspended sentence yesterday for claiming a dead friend's pension for 23 years.
Judge Katherine Delahunt described as "amazing" the ease with which 66-year-old Patrick McLoughlin managed to defraud the State of more than €136,000.
McLoughlin of Ballyfermot Drive, Ballyfermot, Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 10 sample charges, including forging pension vouchers and theft at Upper Ballyfermot Post Office on dates between September 21, 1984, and June 1, 2007. He had no previous convictions.
The money has been repaid by An Post to the Department of Social Protection and was classed as an overpayment, the court was told.
Judge Delahunt imposed a three-year suspended sentence on condition that McLoughlin repay the money at €40 a week.
She said she didn't think society or McLoughlin's sick wife, for whom he is a full-time carer, would benefit from his imprisonment since he now suffered from cancer and had made "genuine efforts" to repay the money out of his disability allowance.
One of the major features in this case was how easily McLoughlin managed to defraud the money. The judge called for a review of the "lax" system saying: "This is a case where systems should be looked at to see how easily this happened."
McLoughlin declined to discuss the case yesterday.
"I've no comment, everything is sorted," was all he said.
An Post said last night that pension-payment protocols were laid down by the department but there was no excuse for what had happened.
A spokesperson said new controls were in place to ensure such a case should not and could not happen again and that only properly identified people authorised to act as an agent were allowed to collect a pension on someone else's behalf.
The Department of Social Protection said it was continuing to work with An Post to ensure protocols were in place to minimise the risk of fraud.
In addition, for the past number of years all deaths registered on the General Register Office's database were notified to the department and payments were promptly stopped in such cases, it said.
The fraud case involving McLoughlin was discovered after social welfare staff were preparing to make the "presidential centenarian bounty payment" to the deceased man, Gerry Donnelly, whose 100th birthday would have been in April, 2007.
A death certificate later showed that Mr Donnelly had died on September 17, 1984. McLoughlin was arrested in June 2007 after gardai viewed CCTV footage of him collecting Mr Donnelly's pension.
McLoughlin later admitted that he stayed with Mr Donnelly shortly before he died and he had later paid for his funeral. He said Mr Donnelly's son had allowed him to claim the man's pension in order to recuperate the costs.