Mother-of-four jailed for stealing around €100k in fraudulent social welfare payments
A mother-of-four who stole around €100,000 in fraudulent social welfare payments has been sentenced to ten months in prison.
Maria Redmond (61) claimed an invalidity pension for 13 years while she was working as a cleaner in Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, Dublin.
Her lawyers told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that she had used the money to “pay her mortgage, keep a roof over her head and look after her children”.
Passing sentence today, Judge Martin Nolan accepted that Redmond's motivating factor was to take care of her family, that she wasn't a wealthy person and was unlikely to re-offend.
He said Redmond hadn't been lucky in life, but that unfortunately she had gone down “the wrong route, the criminal route” and would have to suffer a level of incarceration.
Redmond of Comeragh Road, Drimnagh, Dublin pleaded guilty to 14 counts of stealing property from the Department of Social Protection between November 2002 and September 2015.
The court heard that although she had taken approximately €139,000 in social welfare payments, the State was in fact at a loss of about €100,000 as Redmond would have been entitled to a certain amount of benefits.
Redmond was caught after suspicious officials arranged for her to have her Public Services Card photograph taken.
Garda Ian Abbey told Diarmuid Collins BL, prosecuting, that Redmond had two PPS numbers in two different names, including her maiden name, Delaney. She had her second PPS number registered at her sister's address.
The court heard Redmond was eligible for an invalidity pension when she first claimed it in 1995. However, when she started working in 2002, she failed to inform the department of her change in circumstances.
The court heard that officials in the department became suspicious that Redmond and Delaney were the same person and an investigation began. They spoke to her employers and obtained a copy of her passport photograph before arranging for Redmond to come in to get her Public Services Card.
Once Redmond's photo was taken for the card, officials were able to determine she was the same person.
When arrested, Redmond told gardaí that because she was only working for three hours a day, she did not think she was doing anything wrong.
She said she knew it was wrong to apply for a second PPS number, but said a lot of people she knew were working and collecting social welfare. She told gardaí she was “sorry, ashamed and embarrassed”.
Defence barrister, Emmet Nolan BL, said his client, a separated woman with no previous convictions, was extremely remorseful for her actions. He said she had used the money to “pay her mortgage, keep a roof over her head and look after her children”.
The court heard that Redmond had married a chronic alcoholic who drank all his money and never contributed to the mortgage payments or running of the household.
The court heard Redmond earned €160 a week as a part-time cleaner at the time of the offending.
Judge Nolan said that if Redmond had “declared herself honestly” to Social Welfare, she would have been allowed to work and would have received a certain amount of State benefits.
Redmond is no longer working and receives €191 a week in social payments. She is repaying the money she stole from the department at a rate of €25 a week.
The court heard she is a chronic coeliac and suffers from depression and high anxiety.