Drug smuggler avoids jail over €30k benefits while living in Canaries
A drug smuggler who fraudulently claimed almost €30,000 in benefits for three years when he was living in Lanzarote has been given a suspended sentence.
Gary Mulvany (37) has been convicted of benefit fraud in a prosecution brought by the Department of Social Protection. The offence can carry a fine of up to €2,500 and/or a six-month sentence.
Dublin District Court heard he failed to tell the social welfare authorities that from July 2008 until May 2011 he was not living in the country while he continued claiming disability allowance.
Judge John O'Neill was told his fraud came to light after Mulvany was stopped as he stepped off a flight at Knock Airport. Customs officers searched him and recovered drugs.
That resulted in him getting a three-year suspended sentence at Castlebar Circuit Court for possessing the drugs for the purpose of supply.
As a consequence of that arrest, social welfare authorities became aware of his time in Lanzarote, said prosecution solicitor Joseph Maguire.
The court heard he unlawfully received €29,520, has repaid €4,596, leaving €24,924 outstanding. Some €28 a week is now being taken from his disability allowance to pay back the social welfare authorities - at that rate it will take 17 years for the full amount to be paid back.
Defence counsel Matthew Holmes asked the court to note that Mulvany has not come to the attention of gardai since and that a positive probation report had been furnished to the court.
He had been staying in Lanzarote to get away from his problems and is now drug-free, counsel said.
The court heard the only reason he was not suitable for community service because he has a serious medical condition.
Mr Holmes pleaded with the court to be as lenient as possible.
Judge O'Neill said a substantial amount of money was still owed. Finalising the case, he imposed a three-month sentence but suspended it on condition Mulvany keeps the peace and is of good behaviour for the next 12 months.
At an earlier stage the judge was furnished with pre-sentence reports on him and said Mulvany had a childhood "that no youngster should have gone through".
The court had also heard earlier that the accused had "a long history of offending going back 15 years" but he has turned his life around.
The court heard that he had previously been a heroin addict but has detoxed and now has a serious illness.
Mulvany - with an address at an apartment in Summerhill, Dublin 1 - was apologetic for his behaviour. He had contested the charge but was found guilty following a trial.