Granny faces jail over €60k benefit fraud
A grandmother, who used a bogus PRSI number and ID to get €60,000 in benefits, has been warned by a judge that it is hard to see how she will avoid a jail sentence.
Care assistant and mother-of-six, Christina Mulhall, 58, from Lower Sean McDermott Street, Dublin 1, is being prosecuted by the Department of Social Protection. She pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court to charges under the Social Welfare Consolidation Act for unlawfully obtaining benefits in two separate frauds going back to 2007.
Judge John Brennan adjourned sentencing her until a date in June when a probation report on her will be furnished to the court. Judge Brennan said yesterday the pre-sentence report would also have to have a community service assessment.
However, he also warned the woman that “it is very hard to see how a custodial sentence will not be imposed”.
The offence, on conviction at district court level, can also result in a fine of up to €2,500 and a possible six-month sentence in addition to having to repay the social welfare authorities. They can also continue to recoup money owed after criminal proceedings have concluded.
Prosecution solicitor Joseph Maguire told the court that Mulhall carried out two frauds relating to disability benefits and the one parent family payment.
Each involved misuse of a fake PRSI number and ID to facilitate and aggravate both frauds, he said.
The one parent family payment fraud, from July 2007 until July 2009 netted €29,775 and the disability claim, from April 2010 until January 2013, resulted in her getting €28,676.
The total fraud was €58,451 and the court also heard she is repaying it at a rate of €15 a week. So far she has given back €900, Judge Brennan was told.
Her barrister asked the court to note a guilty plea had been offered at an early stage and she had been co-operative.
The court heard Mulhall's marriage ended 13 years ago but the mother-of-six got no maintenance payments.
She had a zero hour contract job as a care assistant in Dublin but her wages varied between €200 and €400 a week. She works with disabled children and with and elderly patients who have Alzheimer’s disease.
A letter from a child patient was handed in to court during defence pleas for leniency. Counsel defending said Mulhall was worried the outcome of the case could affect her ability to retain her position and to pay back what is owed. Judge Brennan noted she had no dependent children and he commented that the offence was a very serious matter. He had to take into consideration the very large sum over a a very long period of time.
He noted what was said about her being left without maintenance but the fact that the fraud involved substantial amounts for a long period of time meant it was hard to see how there would not be a custodial sentence, he warned.