A father-of-four who used false IDs to fraudulently claim almost half a million euro in social welfare payments over 12 years has been sentenced to five years in prison.
David Church of Parnell Street, Dublin and formerly Monadreen, Thurles, Co Tipperary, faced 199 charges of unlawfully claiming Jobseekers' Allowance and Rent Allowance at various Dublin post offices between 2002 and 2013.
The 39-year-old pleaded guilty to 13 sample counts at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.
Church stole a total of €478,052 from the State, averaging at about €40,000 a year over the period of offending.
The court heard Church had drunk or gambled a lot of the money and had no accumulated wealth when he was arrested in July 2013.
The fraud came to light after the Department of Social Protection used facial recognition software to establish that the same photo was being used on a number of social welfare identities.
Judge Martin Nolan said it was a serious fraud on the State and therefore on the people of the country.
He said the chief purpose of the social welfare system was to extend help to people who need it, and that it had to be user-friendly. But he said Church had taken advantage of the system and defrauded it.
Judge Nolan complimented officers from the Department of Social Protection and the gardaí for their diligence and hard work in detecting the scam.
Detective Garda Colin Rochford said Church had created six false identities by going to the UK and obtaining people's birth certificates.
He said Church had gone into the Record Office in Manchester and paid £10 for each birth cert and had then used those identities to claim welfare in Ireland.
Det Rochford told Tony McGillicuddy BL, prosecuting, that no-one in this State had been affected by the false use of identities.
Officials in the Department of Social Protection became suspicious in July 2013 after facial image-matching showed four people claiming Social Welfare had the same photograph.
The identities were in the names of Adam Cole, Paul Anthony O'Brien, Derek O'Brien and Darren O'Brien.
Officers attended Killinarden Post Office in Tallaght on July 29 and watched a man on CCTV claiming Jobseekers' Allowance in the name of Derek O'Brien.
On the same day, the same man claimed Jobseekers' Allowance at Clondalkin Post Office in the name of Paul Anthony O'Brien.
Gardaí stopped Church on the M50 and he produced a driving licence in his own name. His car was seized and was found to contain documents in the names of three different people.
Church was arrested on suspicion of deception and initially only admitted to falsely using the name of Derek O'Brien to claim benefits.
However three days later he went voluntarily to gardaí in Tallaght and admitted fraudulently using a further five names.
Church has no previous convictions.
Sean Guerin SC, defending, said Church had saved the State the expense of a lengthy trial by pleading guilty and cooperating with gardaí.
He said although Church had used the money to drink, gamble and pay loans, he was also a family man and had provided for his wife and four children, albeit out of ill-gotten gains.
Judge Nolan said Church seemed to have a certain intelligence and good characteristics including being a good son to his mother. He said Church was capable of rehabilitation and could be a useful member of society if he applied himself.