'Little squirrel' cheated €80k from welfare
A JUDGE yesterday likened a dole cheat who had put away a €98,000 cash pile before claiming dole payments of €80,410 to "a little squirrel".
Clare handyman Patrick Cass received the €80,410 in dole payments between 2009 and 2013 as a result of concealing from the State that he had his life-savings of €98,000 in the bank.
Solicitor for Mr Cass, John Casey, said that his client lost his job in 2009 and the €98,000 was his pension.
"Mr Cass was trying to look after himself and his wife into the future. He has worked hard all of his life and he made a big mistake not disclosing his savings," Mr Casey said.
At Ennis District Court yesterday, Judge Patrick Durcan said that Patrick Cass "was like a little squirrel who puts things away for the winter".
Mr Cass pleaded guilty to five separate counts of making false statements to the Department of Social Protection.
The scam by Mr Cass, of Moygalla, Sixmilebridge, was uncovered by a joint venture between the Department of Social Protection and Revenue, codenamed 'Operation DIRT'.
As part of Operation DIRT, officers use computer data to uncover those who are paying large amounts on tax on their savings and cross-reference these bank accounts with those receiving means-tested jobseeker's allowance.
Last year, Tanaiste and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton revealed that the Department had recovered €9.5m as a result of the Operation DIRT crackdown.
Mr Cass made the false disclosure when he was being means tested for jobseeker's allowance.
If Mr Cass had disclosed that he had the €98,000 in savings, he would have received little or no social welfare benefit.