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Antrim fraudster who claimed over £30k from dead father’s pension avoids jail

“He comes from a good family and has no real history of dishonesty,” the defendant’s barrister stressed

David McWhirter

David McWhirter

Christopher Woodhouse and Paul HigginsSunday Life

This is the man who illegally claimed more than £30,000 from his dead dad’s state pension over a two-year period.

Fraudster David McWhirter (56) narrowly avoided jail last week after admitting to taking the money from his father’s account on a weekly basis.

He claimed a family friend had told the Social Security Agency (SSA) about the death and said he believed he was withdrawing cash from a lump sum.

A sentencing hearing at Craigavon Crown Court on Thursday was told McWhirter failed to notify the SSA after his father’s death in July 2008.

A barrister for the prosecution said the agency continued to pay the pension into the deceased man’s Ulster Bank account until a third party reported the fraud in January 2011.

Police enquiries revealed that between £240 and £255 was paid into and withdrawn from the account on a weekly basis, with the fraud amounting to £33,608.

McWhirter, from West Link in Larne, admitted a single charge of fraud by false representation, committed on dates between July 2008 and January 2011.

David McWhirter

The prosecution barrister said the case had been delayed because “there was a long period of time that the police were trying to find and speak to the defendant”.

After they eventually caught up with him in March last year, he admitted he had control of his late father’s bank account but claimed he believed a family friend had alerted the SSA to the death and he thought he had been lifting cash from a lump sum which had been paid into the account.

The court was told McWhirter intended to repay the money using another of his father’s accounts and a bank loan.

“He comes from a good family and has no real history of dishonesty,” the defendant’s barrister stressed.

The lawyer added that at the time of the offence, his client was going through a divorce and was not working, so there was “a lot of upheaval”.

Sentencing McWhirter, Judge Peter Irvine KC said it was clear his offences “were not sophisticated and you were always going to get caught”.

In addition to a one-year jail term, suspended for 18 months, he ordered the fraudster to repay £15,000 to the SAA.

When we approached McWhirter for comment, he refused to discuss the case and told our reporter to put any questions to his solicitor.

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