Irishman is jailed for UK dole fraud that raked in over £1m
An Irish fraudster who helped con the British taxpayer out of more than £1m in benefits to spend drinking with his friends in the pub has been jailed for two years and four months.
Brendan Blake (47) was part of a gang of six who stole the identities of 30 Irish nationals to systematically defraud the Department of Work and Pensions and three local authorities in London.
Judge Nicholas Loraine- Smith described the fraud, which lasted 26 years between 1988 and 2014, as "disgraceful".
The judge added: "He comes to this country, doesn't work, claims these benefits and drinks the money sitting with his friends in the pub."
Blake's co-conspirators, including his brother Anthony Blake, were jailed in December last year for their part in the £1m (€1.4m) scam.
Southwark Crown Court heard the gang ordered replacement birth certificates for the individuals from the Irish authorities, then used the documents to open bank and post offices accounts in their names.
The gang then immediately started claiming job seeker's allowance, as well as squeezing other benefits out of the London boroughs of Lewisham, Lambeth and Southwark.
When officials became suspicious, they "flipped" identities and began claiming benefits under an alternative name in a different borough.
They then returned to using the earlier names, claiming that the person had lost their job and was again unemployed.
Blake was in Limerick visiting his mother at the time of the gang's arrest in April 2014 and eventually had to be extradited to the UK.
He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud on the basis that he only joined the scam in 2002 and only stole two identities.
Southwark Crown Court heard that Blake personally earned at least £95,099.38 (€135,000) from the fraud, but that Department of Work and Pensions records did not go back further than 2002.
He said: "The impression is that most of this money was spent on alcohol and betting shops, there's no suggestion of any assets."
The defence told the court that Blake was remorseful for his actions and that he hadn't left the country to avoid arrest.
Counsel said: "He left the country in 2013 to visit his sick mother. The others weren't arrested until April 2014."
He pointed out that Blake was of previous good character, although he had been involved in the fraud for at least 13 years.
Blake, of no fixed address, admitted one count of conspiracy to defraud.