Tuesday 12 December 2017

Mother stole €28k social welfare payments to pay off daughter's drug debts

The Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin
The Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin

Sonya McLean

A woman who stole over €28,000 from the state by claiming job seekers allowance while she was working said she did so because she was under pressure to pay her daughter's drug debts.

Bridget Dwane (55) told Social Welfare Inspector Frank O'Reilly while questioned about the fraud: “My daughter is in a terrible state”. She said she owed money to dealers and Dwane had taken out a credit union loan of €6,000 to pay them off.

Dwane, of Emmet Sqaure, Blackrock, Dublin came forward to Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on signed pleas of guilty from the District Court. She later confirmed the pleas that she had made false or misleading statements to facilitate payment of Jobseekers allowance on dates between March 2009 and July 2011.

Insp O'Reilly told Gerardine Small BL, prosecuting that despite the fact that Dwane was employed as a school bus escort with St Michael's House from September 2008, she regularly signed declarations that she was unemployed to facilitate the jobseekers allowance payment.

The court heard that Dwane received an overpayment of €28,484 from September 2008 to September 2011. She has started making repayments by standing order of €200 per month but still owes the State €24,200.

Insp O'Reilly confirmed that Dwane has no previous convictions. She has not come to garda attention since.

Judge Karen O'Connor rose to consider a probation report that had been prepared for today's sentence hearing.

She said there were tragic circumstances in Dwane's life that she would not go into but noted that she had lost a son and her marriage had broken down. She said Dwane had been concerned for her daughter's safety at the time as her drug debts were being pursued by others.

Judge O'Connor said the “loss to the exchequer was significant” but given Dwane's co-operation, early guilty pleas and genuine remorse, she wouldn't impose a custodial sentence.

She sentenced Dwane to 12 months in prison which she suspended in full on condition that she engage with the Probation Service for those 12 months.

Insp O'Reilly told the court it came to the attention of his department that Dwane had not declared her employment and an investigation was launched. He was later provided with copies of her payroll and a certificate of employment from St Michael's House.

Dwane met with Insp O'Reilly for interview and initially denied the allegation, suggesting that there had been a mix up with her social welfare number.

She later made full admissions when provided with the evidence in the case and accepted that she knew what the conditions for the receipt of job seekers allowance were.

Karl Moran BL, defending, said his client “was overwhelmed by the position she finds herself in” and was being treated by a doctor for anxiety.

He asked Judge O'Connor to accept that the “offences were borne out of desperation rather than greed” and submitted that Dwane was very concerned about her daughter at the time.

Mr Moran said the probation report before the court concluded that Dwane was a suitable candidate for probation supervision and asked that her early pleas of guilty and co-operation with the investigation be taken into account in sentencing.

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