Monday 10 December 2018

Dole cheat told to leave Ireland

Sorcha Crowley

A man who cheated the State of almost €42,000 in dole payments has been ordered to leave the country by 31st August or face a six year prison sentence.

Former security guard and Slovenian Marjan Bizjak (50) of Old Bundoran Road, Sligo, drew the dole twice on the same day at Cranmore Social Welfare Offices, Sligo for four years between 2009 and 2013.

Bizjak would collect another Slovenian man's dole in the morning (Mr B-) and his own in the afternoon, just changing his hat in between appearances.

He pleaded guilty in April 2015 to forgery by making a false Job Seekers Allowance application on November 12th 2013 and to a sample count of theft from PTSB O'Connell Street Sligo of €204.30 from the Department of Social Protection between September 22nd and 30th.

Bizjak further pleaded guilty to dishonestly misappropriating €188 in cash at PTSB between December 1st and 8th 2013.

The loss to the State came to €41,611.90, with Bizjak gaining €920 in total, with the rest being sent via Western Union to Mr B-.

Judge Keenan Johnston gave Bizjak time to make amends in 2015 and ordered him to repay the money. The Department of Social Protection were deducting 15 per cent of his social welfare payments.

However at last week's Circuit Court hearing on 25th June, defence barrister Mr Keith O'Grady BL, instructed by solicitor Mr Gerard McGovern, told Judge Johnston that the state was still owed €36,000.

He said €21 per week was being taken from Bizjak's Josbseekers Allowance.

Mr O'Grady said Bizjak had been looking for work and provided evidence to the court.

Judge Johnson told Mr O'Grady that the country was at "full employment" and there was "no shortage of jobs."

The judge then offered to suspend his sentence if Bizjak agreed to leave the country.

Mr O'Grady spoke with his client who said he would need money to leave the State but agreed in principal.

"This man has played the State for long enough," replied Judge Johnson and noted that sending Bizjak to prison would put further expense on the State.

Ms Dara Foynes BL, prosecuting, instructed by State Solicitor for Sligo Ms Elisa McHugh, told the judge the maximum sentence for such a theft was ten years.

"Taking into account the plea of guilty, I'm reducing it to 6 years, suspended for 20 years on condition he leaves the country within two months," Judge Johnson told the court.

"If he's in the country after 31st August he's going to prison for six years," he added.

Bizjak, who arrived in Sligo in 2006 and worked for short periods as a security guard, agreed to this condition.

Sligo Champion