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Social welfare fraudster caught by facial recognition software is jailed

The man has led a ‘sad life’ the court heard.

Image: Wanderley Massafelli/Photocall Ireland

A FATHER OF three who committed €25,000 worth of social welfare fraud until he was caught using facial recognition software has been jailed for 18 months.

Bernard Flynn (63) of Cannon Burke Flats, Cabra, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 11 sample charges of stealing from Social Protection at River Valley Post Office, River Valley Swords on dates between August 2011 and April 2014.

The charges were representative of Flynn going to the post office 123 times for job seekers allowance and an additional 13 occasions for both job seekers and rent allowance under the name of Brendan Flynn.

He has 10 previous convictions, including breach of the peace, larceny, careless driving, public order and illegal possession of garda equipment.

Sergeant Kevin Mention told Caroline Cummings BL, prosecuting, the fraud was discovered using facial imaging as Flynn had been legitimately collecting the dole at his local post office but using a different PPS number and date of birth to claim under the name Brendan Flynn in Swords.

“Caught red-handed”

Sgt Mention went to Swords Post Office on 4 April 2014 when Flynn was due to collect using his bogus identity. He arrested him after he collected both his job seekers and rent allowance.

Flynn had a social services card in the name of Brendan Flynn on him and confessed in a follow-up interview, telling officers, “I’ve been caught red-handed”.

Sgt Mention agreed with Mark Lynam BL, defending that his client made full admissions and “never tried to put a spin on it”.

He accepted that Flynn had worked most of his life and had been the co-owner of a barber shop in Dublin city centre.

Sgt Mention further accepted a suggestion from counsel that Flynn now “is isolated and lives a sad life that could be described as squalor”.

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‘Sad life’

Mr Lynam told Judge Martin Nolan that his client went missing for some time when his marriage broke down 12 years ago and his siblings later found him homeless. They set him up in a flat and now do their best “to keep an eye on him”. He is now estranged from his three children.

Judge Nolan said there is always a risk of fraud in the social welfare system because the State have to serve those who need support.

He described it as a serious offence but accepted that Flynn was “highly unlikely to do it again”.

“The court must give a message to the general population that you will pay a price if you are caught committing social welfare fraud,” Judge Nolan adding that he must impose a prison sentence because of the “persistence” of Flynn’s fraud.

He acknowledged that he lives in “pretty poor conditions and lives a pretty miserable life”, that he only has minor previous convictions and had co-operated with the garda investigation.

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