Tuesday 16 January 2018

Welfare fraud B&B owner gets more time to pay up

Barry O'Brien pictured leaving the Four Courts after he appeared before the Dublin District Court. Pic: Collins Courts
Barry O'Brien pictured leaving the Four Courts after he appeared before the Dublin District Court. Pic: Collins Courts

Tom Tuite

DUBLIN man who unlawfully collected more than €27,000 in dole payments after he failed to declare he had inherited a B&B, has been given more time to pay the money back.

Barry O’Brien, (43), of Old Bridge Road, Templeogue, D16 was ordered by Judge John Brennan to appear again at Dublin District Court in October.

He is being prosecuted by the Department of Social Protection. The court heard he that hopes to be able to clear the amount owed and he has been making repayments of €450 a month.

The total was €27,822, prosecution solicitor Joseph Maguire told the court. Since detection he has returned some of the money but  by April he still owed €20,622.

He has continued with the €450 a month repayment plan since then, the court also heard.

The prosecution solicitor said he inherited his parents' B&B at Old Bridge Road in Templeogue and it was later operated by his wife. He had obtained the Jobseeker’s Allowance while having financial means that did not merit, the court was told.

His barrister explained to the court that O’Brien had taken over the guest-house when his parents retired. His wife quit her job to care for them and his mother died in 2008 while his father, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease, passed away four years later.

His parents had significant debts which he was saddled with when he inherited the family business, counsel said. O’Brien had been working in the construction sector but after the economic crash in 2008 that work dried up and he signed on the social welfare.

He failed to disclose the inheritance in 2012 and the B&B income was in his wife’s name.

Pleading for leniency, counsel said it was not a calculated deceit and he is making repayments. The court heard he is again employed in the construction sector and the B&B business is also improving.

It was hoped he would be able to come up with a lump sum, the barrister said.

The father-of-three has pleaded guilty to a charge under the Social Welfare Consolidation Act for unlawfully claiming the social welfare in 2012 and 2013.

At district court level, the offence can 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. The court can only spare defendants accused of dole fraud a criminal record if all the money has been repaid.

Judge Brennan has said he noted the unfortunate situation and that O’Brien had been saddled with huge debt which he had inherited and he held that there was no specific benefit obtained in light of overall circumstances.

He had said earlier that the court was not minded to impose a custodial sentence.

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