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No jail for Romanian woman who used fake ID to claim benefits

Central Criminal Courts
Central Criminal Courts

Romanian mother who used a false identity to get a job and claim illness and maternity benefit is given suspended sentence.

A Romanian mother of three who used a false identity to get a job and claim illness and maternity benefit has been given a suspended sentence.

Alina Onofrei (31) was unable to work legally on her arrival in Ireland because Romania was not a member of the European Union at that time. She bought a fake Lithuanian passport for €800 and used this false identity to obtain work in a supermarket.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard she would have been entitled to the maternity and illness benefit which she later claimed in 2009 and 2010 if she had not used the false identity to obtain it as Romania had joined the EU by that stage.

Onofrei of Bremore Castlegate, Balbriggan,Dublin pleaded guilty to having a fake passport, obtaining a doctor's letter with a false name and stealing just over €8,000 in maternity and illness benefit on dates between August 2009 and September 2010.

Her husband, Stefan Onofrei (34), is currently serving a three year sentence imposed last July for social welfare fraud. He fraudulently claimed over €85,000 in benefits using a false identity and a portion of that claim named his wife as a adult dependent as if she was not working,

Judge Martin Nolan said Onofrei had been “desperate for employment” but her status in the country at that time did not allow her to work. He noted her husband was serving a prison sentence and she was now alone in the country with her children.

He imposed a two and a half year sentence which he suspended in full.

Garda Raymond Foley told Elva Duffy BL, prosecuting, that he began investigating welfare claims made under Onofrei's false identity after concerns were raised by a social welfare inspector.

Onofrei was interviewed in February 2015 and accepted she was working under a false name and using a false passport and documentation. She has no previous convictions and is currently on social welfare.

Patrick Jackson BL, defending, said Onofrei had been advised by friends to get fake identification on her arrival in Ireland. She obtained a false passport and worked for ten years without incident using this identity.

He said the money was being repaid to the State at a rate of €28 per week. Counsel added that Onofrei had co-operated with gardai and expressed remorse.