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Fraudster's €2,500 trip in Tipp


Stumbling along: David Church, who conned a fortune in social welfare payments, made a claim after tripping on a footpath

Stumbling along: David Church, who conned a fortune in social welfare payments, made a claim after tripping on a footpath

Stumbling along: David Church, who conned a fortune in social welfare payments, made a claim after tripping on a footpath

A CONVICTED fraudster who used false IDs to claim almost €480,000 in social welfare payments has been awarded €2,500 for tripping on a footpath.

David Church, who was sentenced to five years in prison for fraud offences in 2015, took a claim against Tipperary County Council after receiving minor injuries following a fall on a footpath in Thurles on March 14, 2014.

The 45-year-old father-of-of-four told the Circuit Civil Court last month that he went to his GP with a sore back and had to take painkillers after his trip.

Judge James McCourt found there was an issue with the footpath but that Church should have also seen the hazard when the accident occurred.

Judge McCourt initially awarded €5,000 but found Church was 50 per cent responsible for his own injury, through negligence, and cut the final award in half to €2,500.

At the time of the incident, Church, who has an address at Parnell Street in Dublin but previously lived in Thurles, was awaiting trial on 199 charges of unlawfully claiming Jobseekers' and Rent Allowance at various Dublin post offices between 2002 and 2013.

The scam artist used false IDs to steal a total of €478,052 from the State, averaging at about €40,000 a year over the period of offending.

His defence said he had drunk or gambled most of the money and had no accumulated wealth when he was arrested in July 2013.

Church successfully scammed the State for 11 years before he was eventually busted when the Department of Social Protection started using facial recognition technology and discovered Church was the same person behind multiple social welfare identities.

He had created six false identities by going to the UK and obtaining birth certificates.

Detective Garda Colin Rochford explained that Church had gone to the Record Office in Manchester and paid £10 for each birth certificate before using the identities to claim welfare here.

He was first rumbled when Department officials were alerted to the scam after facial image technology showed four people claiming social welfare were, in fact, the same person.

He used identities in the names of Adam Cole, Paul Anthony O'Brien, Derek O'Brien and Darren O'Brien.

Gardai were called in and attended Killinarden Post Office in Tallaght on July 29 that year and watched Church on CCTV come in and claim under the name of Derek O'Brien.

He later claimed the dole in Clondalkin Post Office under the name Paul Anthony O'Brien.

Gardai stopped Church on the M50 and he showed them a driving licence in his real name.

They seized his vehicle and found documents in the name of three different people.

While he initially only admitted using the name Derek O'Brien, he later told gardai he also fraudulently used five other names.

Church subsequently pleaded guilty to the offences and was sentenced to five years by Judge Martin Nolan.

Judge Nolan described what Church did as a serious fraud on the State and therefore on the people of Ireland.

He said the social welfare system had to be user friendly as its chief purpose is to extend help to people who need it but he had taken advantage of that system.

Judge Nolan added Church seemed to have a certain intelligence along with good characteristics including being good to his mother and added that he was capable of rehabilitation and could be a useful member of society if he applied himself.

Irish Independent