Friday 24 November 2017

Convicted fraudster who claimed her late partner's benefits spared jail

Ciara O’Donnell (41) of York Street, Dublin. Pic: Court Collins.
Ciara O’Donnell (41) of York Street, Dublin. Pic: Court Collins.

By Sonya McLean

A woman who continued to claim her partner’s disability allowance after he passed away has been given a two year suspended sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Ciara O’Donnell (41) of York Street, Dublin, fraudulently claimed a total of €10,340 after she failed to notify Social Welfare about Kevin O’Carroll’s death.

The man had been reported missing in February 2013 and his body was recovered from a canal in Dublin on March 19, 2013.

O’Donnell pleaded guilty to sample counts of theft from the Department of Social Protection at An Post in both Windy Arbour and Nutgrove Shopping Centre, Rathfarnham on dates between May 2013 and May 2014.

She also pleaded guilty to making a false instrument, a letter purporting to be from the deceased man, in May 2014. She has no previous convictions

This letter related to a reply O’Donnell made to Social Welfare when they enquired as to why Mr O’Carroll hadn’t collected his payments for the previous two months. O’Donnell wrote that Mr O’Carroll would continue to collect the payments again and signed it in his name.

Judge Martin Nolan accepted that O’Donnell made admissions but said to steal from the State and defraud social welfare was a serious offence.

He said the loss to the State was on “the small side” and because of this he felt it was unjust to imprison her. He sentenced O’Donnell to two years in prison which he suspended in full on strict conditions.

Garda Joanne Grogan told Cormac Quinn BL, prosecuting, that O’Donnell had been authorised to collect disability allowance, a weekly payment of €188, on behalf of Mr O’ Carroll. She was also entitled to continue to collect the payments for six weeks after his death.

It subsequently came to the attention of the department that Mr O’Carroll’s death had been registered. His disability payment was stopped and the gardaí were alerted.

O’Donnell admitted to gardaí that she continued to collect the payments after her partner’s death and claimed she thought she had permission to do so for six months. She accepted that she never told social welfare about his death.

“I can’t take it back. Sorry. It was stupid. I apologise,” O’Donnell told gardaí after she said that she had been saving up to pay for a flat.

George Burns BL, defending told Judge Nolan that his client met Mr O’Carroll when she was 16 years old and they had been together 25 years when he died.

He said the man was 10 years her senior and she realised at the beginning of the relationship that he was a chronic alcoholic and drug abuser. She began to abuse heroin herself at one stage but is now on methadone maintenance.

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