Marius Cristea (56) was employed at a golf club under a false identity, while claiming jobseeker's allowance under his own name between 2013 and 2020, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard on Tuesday.
Cristea, with an address at Shackleton Terrace, Lucan, Co Dublin pleaded guilty to eight sample counts of social welfare fraud at Dodsboro post office in Lucan between December 2013 and March 2020 and one count of producing a false instrument at Naas Golf Club on January 14, 2019.
Garda Anna Masterson told Emmet Nolan BL, prosecuting, that after Cristea's business failed during the recession, he took on the identity of a former employee to work at a golf club, while claiming jobseeker's allowance under his own name.
After he was interviewed by gardai in 2019 in relation to about €72,000 of fraudulent social welfare claims, Cristea started working under his own name.
During this period, he received cash in hand and continued to claim a further €11,000 in fraudulent jobseeker's allowance until March 2020, the court heard.
The total loss to the Department of Social Protection was €84,099. Cristea has repaid €3,482 of this to date, the court heard.
Cristea has no previous convictions in Ireland and some historic convictions, including theft, in his native Romania.
Fiona Murphy SC, defending, said Cristea is now running his own catering business with his wife and adult son and has estimated that he will be in a position to repay €40,000 to the department within a year if he is allowed to continue to work.
However, Judge Martin Nolan said he must impose a jail term on Cristea, noting that the wrongdoing was “too extensive and far too prolonged”.
“He was under financial pressure and he succumbed to temptation,” the judge said, as he handed down a jail term of 20 months.
Defence counsel said Cristea has lived in Ireland for 25 years and had his own business for a period of time before it went under during the recession.
The court heard Cristea had a number of pressing financial obligations in relation to his family life and so decided to take on the identity of one of his former employees and work under this assumed name.
He claimed jobseeker's allowance under his own name for seven years, failing to stop even after the department was tipped off and he was interviewed by gardaí in 2019. The offending came to an end in March 2020 and he was charged shortly afterwards.