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Sam Boal/
missing welfare payments

An Post agent who cheated pensioners out of their welfare with 'cock and bull story' avoids jail

Maureen Walsh had told welfare recipients that she didn’t have money at the time to pay them.

A 57-YEAR OLD An Post agent cheated old age pensioners out of their pensions “with a cock and bull story” that she had no money for them.

At Kilrush District Court, Maureen Walsh of the Lighthouse Inn, Kilbaha escaped a jail term after receiving a four month suspended jail sentence for stealing over €12,000 from five pensioners and An Post.

In sentencing the mother of five, Judge Patrick Durcan said that the woman had carried out “a breach of trust on the pensioners in the Loop Head peninsula by spinning some cock and bull story which couldn’t have been true”.

Judge Durcan said that “because bad and all as things were in the past, the day was not reached that An Post, as agent of the Dept of Social Protection, reneged on its responsibilities to pay those on social welfare”.

Judge Durcan said that Walsh had breached “her obligation and truthfulness to members of her own community”.

In relation to two pensioners, Walsh withheld 22 Department of Social Welfare payments of €4,198 and further sums were withheld from three other pensioners totalling hundreds of euro.

Walsh also pleaded guilty to a separate charge of stealing €8,250 directly from Austin Dunne of An Post over a three year period from 10 May 2013 to 8 March 2016.

Walsh operated the Kilbaha Postal Agency for An Post where it was her job to distribute social welfare payments to people in her area.

Her role with An Post was terminated when the offences came to light and she now works as a carer in her local area.

Asking how the crime was committed, Judge Durcan said: “How did she do this? Did she say ‘the Government has run out of money’?”

In reply, Det Garda Conor Flaherty told Judge Durcan: “Ms Walsh told them that she didn’t have money at the time to pay them – that there wasn’t money in the account.”

‘No cash left’

Det Flaherty said that Walsh carried out the crime as she was under financial pressure at the time.

The funds were used to prop up five failing businesses and solicitor for the woman, Joe Chambers, said that all the businesses including a B&B, a pub and small shop are now all closed and she currently has an application before the Personal Insolvency Court.

Chambers said that Walsh did not gain personally from her offences. He said that the landlords of her businesses have obtained a charge of €45,000 against the family farm that Walsh jointly owns over rent not paid.

He said that during 2005/06/07 things were going very well, but that Walsh was totally unprepared for next three to four years with the crash that occurred and she had serious cash flow difficulties.

Chambers said that all of the money has been paid back and a total of €13,546 has been paid back to An Post after Walsh’s extended family rallied around her to loan her the money.

He said: “She is extremely remorseful. She is ashamed of what she did and she is under doctor’s care and I believe that she will come out of this on the other side. There is a very low risk of re-offending.”

Chambers said that Walsh is a native of west Clare and woke up one morning as a 16-year -old in 1976 without her sight in both eyes.

Chambers said that the woman spent the best part of a year in hospital recuperating but today has sight in only one eye of 60% to 70%. Chambers said that as a result of the illness Walsh didn’t return to school after the Junior Cert and worked as a shop assistant in Kilkee.

In his sentencing, Judge Durcan said that “by virtue of her activity, Ms Walsh has lost her businesses – she has lost the position of leadership and prestige she would have had in her community by virtue of being a prominent local business woman”.

He added: “She has been subject to social deprivation since all this matter came to light and probably in a situation where she will never properly recover because for the rest of her life, she will be subject to the memory of many members of the public to these matters.”

Read: Man in his 50s exposed himself to three schoolgirls in Dublin >

Read: Scottish financial giant Standard Life says Dublin will likely be its new EU base >

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