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There have been around 15 arrests in the Dublin region for suspected social welfare fraud

There have been around 15 arrests in the Dublin region for suspected social welfare fraud

There have been around 15 arrests in the Dublin region for suspected social welfare fraud

Gardai have arrested a 68-year-old man in relation to a social welfare fraud of more than €200,000 that was allegedly carried out for 23 years.

The Clondalkin man, who is understood to have worked in the construction industry, was taken to his local garda station.

Detectives from the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) questioned him for several hours before releasing without him charge.

"Essentially, this individual was working under one name and claiming social welfare benefits under another," a senior source said.

Crackdown

"Investigations have established that the fraud took place between 1995 and 2018 and charges are very likely in this case."

The man is one of around 15 suspects who have been arrested this year in the Dublin region for social welfare fraud after the GNECB launched a crackdown late last year.

"The number of arrests would have been higher except the coronavirus pandemic put some investigations on hold. There will be more arrests," the source said.

After the arrest of the Clondalkin man last Tuesday, another suspect was arrested in Tallaght in a separate case.

He was questioned about a €40,000 fraud carried out over a three-year period.

"This suspect was claiming false payments by declaring he was only working two days a week when in fact he was working full-time. Again, a file will be processed for the DPP," the source said.

Earlier this month, a man was charged with 51 offences relating to fraudulent social welfare claims amounting to €220,000 that were allegedly made between 1991 and 2015.

"This man had two false IDs and it is suspected that this is another case of a person working under one name and claiming welfare under another," the source said.

Also earlier this month, two Nigerian nationals were charged with an alleged €50,000 social welfare fraud that had happened over a five-year period.

"The charges here involve theft and deception. One suspect was allegedly living abroad while the other was making the claims for him," the source said.

An Algerian national based in Naas, Co Kildare, was charged earlier this month with 24 off- ences of "theft by using a false instrument" after detectives discovered he was allegedly collecting jobseeker's allowance by using a false French ID card.

There has been a recent increase in garda resources with the secondment of officers to the Department of Social Protection's Special Investigation Unit.

These officers retain their garda powers and undertake the full range of duties in detecting and investigating social welfare fraud.

In another case the fraud squad investigated, a Dublin woman in her 50s was arrested in February in relation to an alleged €100,000 benefits fraud.

She was released from Clondalkin Garda Station following her arrest at her home in Newcastle, Co Dublin.

Target

The GNECB is managing 20 gardai who have been seconded to the department.

Last September, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection announced it will review more than 750,000 social welfare claims this year.

Former Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty announced the department will also target fraud through a Special Investigations Unit and publicise its hotline to encourage members of the public to report cases their suspicions.

A previous anti-fraud campaign, Welfare Cheats, Cheat Us All, was promoted by Leo Varadkar when he was Social Protection Minister in 2017.

The initiative was controversial, with critics arguing that it sensationalised the real level of abuse.