herald

Saturday 19 January 2019

Man claimed €6,000 of jailed brother's dole

A DOLE fraudster illegally collected more than €6,000 by impersonating his brother, who was serving a prison sentence.

Desmond Russell (43) defrauded the State over a 32-week period, pretending to be his brother while signing on for him at his local post office and taking his welfare payments.

The brother had been serving a jail term in Mountjoy prison.

Judge Michael Walsh told Dublin District Court that while Russell was now paying back what he had stolen, his actions had been a "huge burden" on the Irish taxpayer.

The case was adjourned for a community service suitability assessment.

Russell, with an address at Rafter's Road, Drimnagh, pleaded guilty to multiple charges of theft from the Department of Social Protection at Galtymore Road Post Office, Drimnagh on dates between September 2012 and May 2013. The total loss to the State was €6,696.

The court heard the accused's brother had been serving a 32-week term in custody when the accused signed on for him at the post office and collected his social welfare payments.

He pleaded guilty to the offences in January this year but it had taken the intervening period for a plan of repayment of the money to be put in place.

This was because the Department's file in the case had gone missing, the court heard. The accused had previous convictions for drugs, public order and other offences, but had not been convicted of a theft since 1999.

Defence solicitor Paul Hannon said the dole theft was a serious and unusual offence, with nothing in the accused's background to indicate that it had happened before.

LEGITIMATE

He explained that the accused had collected payments on behalf of his brother for legitimate reasons in the past but went on to do it while the brother was serving his sentence.

"He was impersonating his brother for want of a better word," Mr Hannon said.

"The opportunity was there and it was a foolish mistake."

Mr Hannon said the accused had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and was anxious to start repaying the money. A representative of the Department of Social Protection was in court to confirm that papers had gone missing but the repayment schedule was now in operation.

It would take Russell three and a half years to pay the money back and it would be a huge burden on him, Mr Hannon said.

"What he did has been a huge burden on the taxpayer," the judge said. "He defrauded this money from the State for 32 weeks."

Mr Hannon said the accused would repay every penny. He was prepared to carry out community service if he is found suitable but was of a "nervous disposition".

The judge adjourned the case to a date in November, without indicating a penalty, after the Probation Service said it would need more time to complete a report. He was remanded on continuing bail.

hnews@herald.ie

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