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Mother of fraud Woman who spent fraudulently claimed carer's allowance on holidays gets early release

Mary O'Callaghan obtained €69,000 in carer's allowance and spent it on trips to Barbados and Morocco

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Mary O' Callaghan who was jailed for falsely claiming over 69,000 euro in carer's allowance for her mother. She was living in the UK at the time and her mother was living in Cork.

Mary O' Callaghan who was jailed for falsely claiming over 69,000 euro in carer's allowance for her mother. She was living in the UK at the time and her mother was living in Cork.

Mary O' Callaghan who was jailed for falsely claiming over 69,000 euro in carer's allowance for her mother. She was living in the UK at the time and her mother was living in Cork.

A SUN-LOVING criminal who splashed cash she fraudulently claimed in carer's allowance on holidays to Barbados and Morocco has been released from prison just four months into her 18-month sentence.

Jet-setting fraudster Mary O'Callaghan obtained €69,000 in carers allowance for minding her elderly mother in Cork when she was actually living in London.

O'Callaghan (52) was jailed for 18 months just last September over what was described as an "egregious, deliberate abuse of social welfare allowance."

But our pictures, taken on Tuesday morning, show how the Cork woman is now back on the streets after serving less than a quarter of her mandated sentence.

Dressed in a pair of paint-splattered pants and carrying a large hold-all, the thieving painter and decorator shielded herself from a light drizzle.

We snapped her outside an address in Dublin where she has been staying after leaving the Dochas Women's Centre Prison in late January.

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Mary O'Callaghan

Mary O'Callaghan

Mary O'Callaghan

O'Callaghan's release from custody just four months after being sentenced means, effectively, she served one month in prison for every €15,000 of taxpayers' money she fraudulently pocketed.

Details of how O'Callaghan scammed the staggering sum from the social welfare and of how she splashed some of it on foreign travel emerged when her case came before the Circuit Criminal Court in Cork last year.

Garda John Dineen said the money which was fraudulently claimed was partly used by the accused for foreign holidays.

These included trips to Morocco and Barbados.

The garda said O'Callaghan was very co-operative with the investigation since she was first approached by gardai.

Garda Dineen said there were 243 counts of theft representing a total of over €69,000 by fraudulently claiming carer's allowance for minding her mother in Cork when she [the defendant] was living in London. Payments were made to her from 2013 to 2019.

"It came to the Department's attention she was not living in the country. A Social Welfare inspector made various enquiries with Ryanair. He witnessed her flying in from Gatwick. And an investigation commenced," Garda Dineen said.

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While there was reference to a much bigger number of charges, the defendant was charged with a total of 20 sample counts of theft.

The 20 counts related to various amounts, mainly €204 but one was for €10,608 - namely a back-payment from 2014 to 2013 to when the application was initially made.

The location for the offences was Ballintemple post office and the charges stated that the amounts were stolen from the Department of Social Protection, contrary to the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud) Act.

Defence barrister Nikki O'Sullivan said there was some comment on Facebook about a Barbados holiday, but she said O'Callaghan had only travelled there for a funeral of a family member of her partner who comes from there.

Ms O'Sullivan said the defendant worked in the UK as a painter/decorator but was currently out of work as a result of an assault on her in the UK and did not have further compensation available to pay back at the moment.

The barrister said Mary O'Callaghan was initially entitled to the carer's allowance when she lived in Cork but continued claiming it after leaving for the UK. Ms O'Sullivan BL said the defendant's son was caring for his grandmother at the time and continues to do so.

Judge Ó Donnabháin said in respect of Mary O'Callaghan's offences: "This was an egregious, deliberate abuse of social welfare allowance. She knowingly and deliberately was living abroad while claiming it and there is no doubt she knew what she was doing was fraudulent and was very egregious behaviour, which was in part allowed for by continuous travel over and back the Irish Sea.

"A certain amount of money was repaid which has now fully stopped. There has to be a custodial sentence."

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin jailed O'Callaghan for 18 months, saying she paid back €19,000 leaving a substantial unpaid balance.

The Irish Prison Service this week refused to comment on the circumstances of O'Sullivan's individual case.

Speaking in general terms, a spokesperson said: "The vision of the Outlook Programme is to promote the rehabilitation and re-integration of women leaving prison and those who have accommodation needs requiring support in the community.

"The programme supports women serving sentences of imprisonment who pose a low risk to society to gradually re-integrate into the community."

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