Monday 19 August 2019

Asylum-seeker assumed false identity to allow him work before claiming €50k in welfare

Samba Sow. Picture Collins Courts.
Samba Sow. Picture Collins Courts.

Isabel Hayes

An asylum-seeker who assumed a false identity to allow him to work in Ireland, before claiming €50,000 in social welfare payments when he lost his job, has avoided going to prison.

Samba Sow claimed entitlements including job seekers' benefit, job seekers' allowance and rent allowance under the name Moussa Sow over a four-year period between 2011 and 2014.

His deception was flagged by the Department of Social Protection's facial recognition system when he was made legal in 2015, tried to drop his false identity and regularise his situation, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard on Tuesday.

Sow (55) with an address in Kilakee Way, Firhouse, Dublin pleaded guilty to 18 counts of stealing social welfare payments from Phibsborough Post Office, North Circular Road, Dublin 7 and AIB in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 between April 2011 and December 2014.

Handing down a suspended two-year sentence, Judge Catherine Murphy noted that although Sow claimed his entitlements under a false name, he never tried to claim double payments. “As soon as he was given an alternative social welfare payment, he ceased claiming the first payment,” she said.

Garda Nigel Daly told Dean Kelly BL, prosecuting, that Sow arrived in Ireland from Senegal in 2007 and claimed asylum. He was placed in direct provision in Tralee, Co Kerry and received a payment of €19 a week.

Sow then paid €900 for a French passport with the name Moussa Sow which allowed him to work in the country. He acquired a PPS number under this name and worked in a pub in Dublin for the next four years. While working, he paid income tax and PRSI.

Mr Kelly said Sow was made redundant during the recession and started claiming social welfare payments under the name Moussa Sow. He claimed a total of €50,006 over the next four years, the court heard.

However, when Sow was granted permission to remain in the state, he “brought the claim under Moussa Sow to an end and made a legitimate claim” in his real name, Mr Kelly said. He was recognised by the department's facial recognition software and later arrested.

He has no previous convictions.

Defence barrister, Paul McCarthy SC, said Sow contacted the Department of Social Protection in October 2015 and arranged to pay back €20 weekly. To date, he has returned €1000 of the money he took.

He is currently living in emergency accommodation and shares a double room with another occupant. He has been there some time and is regarded as a “model occupant”, the court heard. He continues to support his wife and two children in Senegal and hopes to gain employment soon, Mr McCarthy said.

Gda Daly agreed that had Sow not sought to regularise his situation, he might never have been detected. He also agreed that Sow never tried to “double dip” or access payments under two names.

Judge Murphy noted a probation services report was extremely positive and found Sow was in no need of further supervision. “He is making and will continue to make an honest effort to pay back the money to social welfare,” she said.

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