A man charged with social welfare fraud to the tune of €1,336 was sending the money to the man he was impersonating, in Australia.
Donal Deegan (22) of Derrywash, Castlebar, appeared before Castlebar District Court where he pleaded guilty to the theft of €1,336 from the Department of Social Protection over an eight-week period.
Superintendent JJ Keane told the court that in August, 2011 Deegan’s friend, James Richard Kelly, moved to Australia and Deegan took possession of his social welfare card.
On eight occasions, from August 30 to October 21, he went into Castlebar Post Office impersonating Kelly and withdrew his weekly jobseekers’ allowance of €167. He was detected by a Post Office employee who recognised him. Superintendent Lee said that investigating Gardaí believed Deegan’s statement that the money was being sent to Kelly in Australia to be true.
Deegan himself was on €144 per week disability at the time but this was lodged straight to his bank account and didn’t require collection at the post office.
Defending solicitor James Ward told the court that his client was asked to ‘do a favour’ and collect Kelly’s social welfare and send it out to him. He didn’t benefit personally from it. He said Deegan now realised it was a stupid move.
Judge Mary Devins said that Deegan sending the money in an envelope to Australia sounded far-fetched. Deegan himself said that he was ‘helping a friend out’.
The court heard that Deegan had €960 before the court from money he had saved and from his sister by way of compensation. Judge Mary Devins adjourned the matter to January 2 next for the preparation of a Probation report.