A WOMAN WHO fraudulently claimed over â¬ 69,000 in childcare allowance to care for her elderly mother in Cork while living in the UK and traveling to Barbados and Morocco has been jailed for 18 months.
Painter and decorator Mary O’Callaghan of Woodvale Road, Beaumount, Blackrock in Cork appeared before the Cork Circuit Criminal Court for a conviction which collected around â¬ 19,000 in compensation.
In a previous hearing into the case, Garda John Dineen, who is on secondment to the Welfare Department, said Ms O’Callaghan (52) used a large sum of money she defrauded to travel abroad.
However, during a hearing into the case today, Defense attorney Nikki O’Sullivan said her client wanted to point out that his trip to Barbados was to attend a funeral and that this was “not a gay man on state funds.”
Garda Dineen told the court Ms O’Callaghan had fully cooperated with the investigation since the case was first brought up with her by Gardai.
Garda Dineen said the case involved Ms O’Callaghan receiving payments for taking care of her mother in Cork while living in London. Payments were made from 2013 to 2019 when she was traveling back and forth from the UK.
âIt was brought to the attention of the ministry that she does not live in the countryside. A social protection inspector carried out various inquiries with Ryanair. He saw it coming from Gatwick. And an investigation has been opened.
Although reference was made to a much larger number of charges, the defendant was indicted and pleaded guilty to a total of 20 counts of theft.
The 20 charges were for various amounts, mainly â¬ 204, but one was for â¬ 10,608 – namely a backlog from 2014 to 2013 until the time the request was originally made.
The place of the offenses was the Ballintemple Post Office in Cork and the charges indicated that the amounts had been stolen from the Department of Social Welfare, contrary to the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud) Act.
Ms O’Sullivan, BL, said today her client has done her best to increase compensation.
âHowever, she was subjected to assault on herself and was unable to work. “
She said during the last court hearing, many photos of her client were taken on Facebook, which appeared to involve a vacation in Barbados.
âIt has become a public spectacle. It was not a public holiday. She was in Barbados to attend a funeral.
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Ms O’Sulllivan said her client would have liked to increase her pay, but work had dried up for her in her trade as a painter and decorator. Judge Sean O’Donnabhain said he was a little cynical about suggestions that the “paint has dried up” for the accused.
Ms. O’Sullivan has appealed for leniency for her client who is a first-time offender. She said O’Callaghan pleaded guilty and traveled back and forth with her mother to look after her at the time of the offenses.
She said a family affair required her to be in England and Ms O’Callaghan’s son to take care of his grandmother. The man remains the official caregiver of his grandmother
Judge Sean Ã DonnabhÃ¡in said O’Callaghan carried out “constant regularity” flights to and from England during his “flagrant deliberate abuse of the welfare system”.
âThere is no doubt that she knew what she was doing was fraudulent. It is a type of serious offense. She knew she had no right to claim it. She didn’t even live in the country. “
He added that a custodial sentence was justified given that such allowances are “hard earned”, even for those who deserve them. Ms O’Callaghan, who is a grandmother and mother of five, was jailed for 18 months.