herald

Thursday 17 October 2019

€40k benefits cheat spared prison after posing as brother

Owen McKeever was caught by facial-imaging technology
Owen McKeever was caught by facial-imaging technology

A man who fraudulently claimed more than €40,000 of Jobseeker's Allowance in his brother's name and was caught out by facial-imaging technology has been sentenced to 200 hours of community service.

Owen McKeever (63), of Durrow Road, Crumlin, Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to fraudulently claiming Jobseeker's Allowance in the name of Brendan McKeever between 2009 and 2013.

McKeever had been sent forward from the district court on signed guilty pleas to 50 sample counts of social welfare fraud. He was also making a legitimate social welfare claim in his own name at the time.

Judge Karen O'Connor ordered that he do 200 hours of community service in lieu of a sentence of two years and three months in prison.

Garda Ian Abbey told the court that facial-imaging technology was introduced in the Department of Social and Family Affairs in 2013.

A match was later discovered between a genuine photo of McKeever and a photo of him purporting to be his brother.

Repossessed

Gda Abbey said he interviewed McKeever who immediately made full admissions and told him: "I put my hands up."

McKeever's brother had been home from the UK for a time and began signing on for a claim in his name which McKeever continued when his brother returned to the UK.

The total loss to the Exchequer was €41,871. McKeever told gardai he did not think the figure was that high but accepted it.

Cathal O'Braonain BL, defending, said McKeever had run a number of businesses, including a delivery business, which had failed as a result of the recession and his vehicles had been repossessed.

He did not have significant debts as a result, but it had led to a change in his lifestyle.

Counsel asked the court to take into account his client's immediate co-operation and full admissions.

He said €4,700 had already been paid to Revenue and a further €3,500 had been given by McKeever to his solicitor who would ensure it was also paid back.

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