Mother jailed for social welfare fraud as she tried to pay off husband’s debt
A MOTHER-OF-FOUR who defrauded the State out of over €15,000 in order to pay off her husband’s drug debt has been sentenced to two years with the final 15 months suspended.
Marie Cawley (34) Rivermeade Avenue, St. Margarets in Swords, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 15 sample counts of stealing from the Department of Social Protection on dates between January 1, 2010 and May 8, 2011.
She also pleaded guilty to an offence of possession of a false driving license in the name of Mary McDonald on July 14, 2011. She has no previous convictions.
Detective Garda Emer Judge told John Fitzgerald BL, prosecuting, that the fraud was uncovered through a garda operation called “Headrest”.
The gardaí searched Cawley’s cousin’s address on July 14, 2011 where they discovered documents addressed to both Cawley and Mary McDonald. They also found a driving license in the name of Ms McDonald but with Cawley’s photograph attached to it.
Gda Judge said that further investigations revealed that Cawley had been falsely claiming job seeker’s allowance in her cousin’s name since January 2010. The total amount stolen was €15,260.
A genuine application had initially been made by Ms McDonald but she later moved to London. Cawley then signed on monthly at her local social welfare office, using the false license, which allowed her to continue to claim the dole under Ms McDonald’s name.
Gda Judge said Cawley was arrested in November 2011 when she presented herself at Malahide Garda Station.
She told gardaí in interview that she had been under financial pressure as her husband owed a drug debt.
She described her criminal behaviour as “an extreme measure” and said she had no choice because her husband was in danger.
Gda Judge agreed with Oisín Clarke BL, defending that Cawley had been under her husband’s influence and has not come to garda attention since her arrest.
Mr Clarke told Judge Martin Nolan that his client’s relationship with her husband was physically violent and she has spent some time throughout their marriage in a woman’s refuge.
He said her four children are doing quite well and asked the court to accept that she “is holding her hands up to the offence”.
Counsel said the money his client stole went towards her husband’s drug debt and said she is currently reimbursing the State at €20 per week.
Judge Nolan said social welfare fraud is a difficult situation.
“At times it can be pretty easily accomplished”, he said before he added that the Department’s only option in such cases is to send the people to court to deter others from carrying out the same crime.
He described Cawley as “a good lady” and said documents handed into court proved that her children are doing well and that she also has responsibility for her parents.
Judge Nolan said he had taken into account that Cawley’s relationship with her husband had affected her mental health.
He said a substantial prison sentence was justified but took into account Cawley’s personal circumstances and the fact she has no previous convictions.