herald

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Man stole at least €85k by using false name 463 times to claim social welfare

Romanian national who stole at least €85,000 from the State by claiming social welfare under a false name 463 times has been jailed for three years
Romanian national who stole at least €85,000 from the State by claiming social welfare under a false name 463 times has been jailed for three years

A Romanian national who stole at least €85,000 from the State by claiming social welfare under a false name 463 times has been jailed for three years.

Stefan Onofrei (34), of Bremore, Castlegate, Balbriggan, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to six sample charges of theft of Jobseeker's Benefit, Jobseeker's Allowance, supplementary welfare allowance, emergency means payment, rent property supplement allowance and family income supplement on dates between January 9, 2009 and February 10, 2015. He has no previous convictions.

Gda Raymond Foley told Ronan Kennedy, prosecuting, that his investigation concluded that Onofrei stole €97,207.24 over the course of six years.

Onofrei admitted to gardai that he had bought a Lithuanian passport for €200 and used this to get a PPS number.

He then got a job in construction and paid income tax under the false name, but when he lost his position he used the same identity to apply for various social welfare payments. He was arrested at his home after gardai viewed CCTV footage from various post offices around Dublin and Meath.

Onofrei made full admissions in a follow-up garda interview and said he had been living and working in Ireland since 2003. He is married with twin daughters and his wife is expecting their third baby.

Gda Foley accepted a suggestion from Onofrei's counsel, Michael Bowman, that his client disputes the total amount he stole and claims it is in fact closer to €85,000.

deceive

He agreed that Onofrei had worked legitimately under the false name, but when he lost his job and found himself a father to a young family "temptation crossed his path and he took it".

Mr Bowman said his client has been doing well since his remand in prison last February.

Judge Martin Nolan said Onofrei had "engaged in a pattern of behaviour to deceive and defraud the social welfare system".

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