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Woman who fraudulently claimed €100,000 in sister's benefits caught out by her ringing phone

The court heard that the Dublin pensioner had been collecting the social welfare for 20 years.

Image: Shutterstock/Vladyslav Starozhylov

FRIENDS OF A Dublin pensioner who stole over €100,000 by using her sister’s social welfare card to fraudulently claim benefits have gathered €6,000 for her towards repayment of the cash, a court has heard.

Marie McMahon (68) told gardaí that when her sister Katherine emigrated to the States in 1992, her friend initially used the woman’s social welfare card to pick up her benefits.

When this woman went into hospital McMahon agreed to continue collecting the payments and they split the money between them. This woman later died in 2012 and McMahon continued to collect her sister’s benefits until she was detected through facial recognition technology in July 2014.

Social welfare inspector Patrick Brennan called to her house where he took her details and spoke to her at length. He later tried to call to a different address provided for Katherine McMahon but couldn’t get an answer.

He then asked for Katherine McMahon to call at his office for interview and the accused turned up. She insisted she was Katherine McMahon but he recognised her as Marie McMahon.

Mr Brennan asked the woman if she remembered meeting him before but she said she couldn’t recall him.

He then rang the mobile number he had for Marie McMahon and the woman’s phone went off in her pocket. When he told her it was him ringing her, she admitted that she remembered meeting him and confirmed that she had been claiming her sister’s benefit for almost 20 years.

Katherine McMahon’s payments were suspended from that date.

Forced to pay out drug debts

Marie McMahon told officers that she believed if she stopped collecting the money, social welfare would have to start an investigation and she would be caught, so she decided to continue with the fraud.

McMahon of Aideen Avenue, Terenure pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 13 charges of stealing various amounts of social welfare payments from James’s Street Post Office on dates between September 1, 2002 and June 11, 2014.

She has one previous conviction for possession of drugs from 1979. Judge Melanie Greally initially heard evidence in the case in March and had adjourned it to allow her consider testimonials handed into court and to allow time for a probation report to be prepared.

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At the original sentence hearing Lorcan Staines BL, defending, had handed in a large volume of testimonials and said his client had been involved in a protest movement in relation to woman’s rights for many years.

Today Mr Staines said that since her last court appearance friends of McMahon had become aware of the case due to the media attention and had gathered €6,000 towards repayment of the money stolen.

She would also have her benefits reduced by €15 per week. He said she would not be able to repay the money in her lifetime but was making these efforts. He asked the court to take into account her age and medical difficulties.

Garda Richard Pender accepted that McMahon had one son, who she said was trouble as a child and that she was forced to pay out drug debts on his behalf on more than 20 occasions.

Judge Greally said McMahon appeared to be someone who had gathered very useful skills over her lifetime and the possibility of community service warranted investigation.

She noted it was possible that McMahon may not be medically fit but she adjourned the case to October for the probation service to assess suitability.

Read: Man who raped two children – one who has Down syndrome – sentenced to 6 years>

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Sonya McLean and Fiona Ferguson

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