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Dole cheat claimed €22k while working due to 'boom-time spending'

CourtsBy Tom Tuite
Dole cheat claimed €22k while working due to 'boom-time spending'

A DUBLIN woman, who lied to the social welfare office about having a job and fraudulently claimed more than €22,000 in dole payments, has avoided a jail sentence.

Edel Byrne (34) of The Swift, Tassaggard, Saggart was fined €500 after she pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court to the dole fraud in a prosecution brought by the Department of Social Protection.

Judge John O'Neill was told that from February 2012 until February 2014, she made two false declarations to the social welfare authorities. She was claiming a one-parent family payment but was employed with an annual salary of €27,000.

On the forms she had been asked if she was working but clearly answered "no", the judge was told.

She unlawfully obtained €22,174 and since detection has been paying it back at a rate of €20 a week. At that rate, it will take 20 years for the social welfare authorities to recover the money, prosecuting solicitor Joseph Maguire said.

Pleading for leniency, the woman's barrister told the court that Ms Byrne was under economic pressure following boom-time spending. She had a loan car, did not live lavishly and was looking after her children on her own. She did not appreciate the seriousness of the situation, the court also heard.

She had no prior convictions but has hit "rock bottom".

She is now unable to work and is in receipt of illness benefit.

Judge O'Neill said she knew that she was not being upfront with the social welfare authorities and she has put herself in this stressful situation. Fining her, he said she was "the author of her own misfortune" and owed a "colossal amount".

The charge is contrary to Social Welfare Consolidation Act. 

It can result in a fine of up to €2,500 and a possible six-month sentence in addition to having to repay the social welfare authorities. They can also continue to recoup money owed after criminal proceedings have concluded.