€248k benefits cheat fights for cut in 12-year jail term
A judge has said that a court may have to "disapprove" of the "easy" nature of welfare fraud in the case of a man appealing a 12-year sentence for the biggest welfare fraud by an individual in the history of the State.
Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan made the comments during the High Court appeal by Paul Murray (64), who travelled to Ireland from his home in Thailand every three months to fraudulently claim €248,000 in social welfare benefits using nine different identities over a five-year period.
The court heard that Murray used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle in Thailand and to indulge in international travel. There was evidence that restitution had been "modest in the extreme".
In July last year Murray was jailed for 12-and-a-half years by Judge Anthony Kennedy at Mullingar Circuit Criminal Court after pleaded guilty to 25 sample counts of theft and possession of a false passport.
He has a previous conviction for a similar fraud in Britain.
Mr Justice Finnegan said that because of the serious risk posed to public funds by the "easy" implementation of welfare fraud, the court may be required to "disapprove" of it.
He earlier commented that statistics highlighting the high percentage of bogus social welfare claims showed that it would perhaps be unnecessary to inflict hardship on those genuinely entitled to benefits were it not for fraudsters like Murray.
Mr Justice Finnegan said that because of the peculiar circumstances of the case, judgment would be reserved until next week, when the appeal court will sit at the Four Courts.
Stephen Byrne, for Murray, argued that although the six- month sentences imposed on each count of theft were not unduly severe, the cumulative 12-and-a-half-year sentence was excessive.