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Woman who claimed €69k in welfare payments whilst travelling to Barbados and Morocco jailed

Mary O’Callaghan was sentenced to 18 months.
Sep 21st 2021, 10:40 PM 72,419 33

A WOMAN WHO fraudulently claimed over €69,000 in carer’s allowance for minding her elderly mother in Cork when she was living in the UK and travelling to Barbados and Morocco has been jailed for 18 months.

Painter and decorator Mary O’Callaghan of Woodvale Road, Beaumount, Blackrock in Cork appeared before Cork Circuit Criminal Court for sentencing having gathered in the region of €19,000 in compensation.

At a previous hearing of the case Garda John Dineen, who is seconded to the Department of Social Protection, said Ms O’Callaghan (52) used a large amount of money she defrauded for foreign travel.

However, at a hearing of the case today Defence barrister, Nikki O’Sullivan, said that her client was keen to emphasise that her trip to Barbados was to attend a funeral and that it was “not a jolly on state funds.”

Garda Dineen told the court that Ms O’Callaghan had co operated fully with the investigation since the matter was first broached with her by gardai.

Garda Dineen said the case involved Ms O’Callaghan receiving payments for taking care of her mother in Cork when she was living in London. Payments were made from 2013 to 2019 when she was travelling back and forth from the UK.

“It came to the Department’s attention she was not living in the country. A Social Welfare inspector made various enquiries with Ryanair. He witnessed her flying in from Gatwick. And an investigation commenced.”

While there was reference to a much bigger number of charges, the defendant was charged with and pleaded guilty to a total of 20 sample counts of theft.

The 20 counts related to various amounts, mainly €204 but one was for €10,608 – namely a back-payment from 2014 to 2013 to when the application was initially made.

The location for the offences was Ballintemple post office in Cork and the charges stated that the amounts were stolen from the Department of Social Protection, contrary to the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud) Act.

Ms O’Sullivan, BL, today said that her client had done her best to raise compensation.

“However, she was the subject of an assault on herself and has been unable to work. ”

She said that a lot had been made at the last court hearing of photographs of her client on Facebook which appeared to involve a holiday to Barbados.

“It became a public spectacle. It was not a holiday. She was in Barbados to attend a funeral.”

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Ms O’Sulllivan said her client would have liked to raise more compensation but work had dried up for her in her profession as a painter and decorator. Judge Sean O’Donnabhain said he was a little cynical about suggestions that the “paint ran dry” for the defendant.

Ms O’Sullivan appealed for leniency for her client who is a first time offender. She said that O’Callaghan had entered a guilty plea and was back and forth to her mother to care for her at the time of the offences.

She said a family matter required her being in England and Ms O’Callaghan’s son took over the care of his grandmother. The man remains the official carer for his grandmother

Judge Sean Ó Donnabháin said that O’Callaghan made flights of “consistent regularity” to and from England during her “egregious deliberate abuse of the social welfare system.”

“There is no doubt she knew what she was doing was fraudulent. It is an egregious type of offence. She knew she was not entitled to claim it. She was not even living in the country. ”

He added that a custodial sentence was warranted given that such allowances are “hard won” even for people who deserve them. Ms O’Callaghan, who is a grandmother and a mother of five, was jailed for 18 months.

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Olivia Kelleher

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