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Man avoids jail after claiming dead brother’s pension

A man who claimed his dead brother’s invalidity pension for almost 18 months has been given a fully suspended prison sentence.

Gary Dunne, 42, of Sean O’Casey Avenue, Dublin 1, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to claiming the pension fraudulently on dates between September 2021 and October 2021.

Detective Garda Fionnuala Lawlor told Kate Egan, prosecuting, that Dunne claimed a total of €26,820.

She said suspicions were raised after a letter was received asking if the deceased man’s benefits could be claimed at a local post office when the Department of Social Protection had received his death certificate and paid out money for his funeral almost three years beforehand.

Det Gda Lawlor said once this was noticed, a meeting was arranged so the identity of the person claiming the benefits could be determined. Dunne attended the meeting on 4 October 2021.

The court heard that the pension had been collected fraudulently from March 2020 to August 2021.

Following the meeting in the department, gardaí were alerted to the fraud, which led to a search of Dunne’s home, but nothing of evidential value was found.

Det Gda Lawlor agreed with Michael Hourigan, defending, that Dunne was otherwise not on the garda radar and has no previous convictions.

She accepted that he had issues with both drugs and alcohol. He has the offer of a job and is willing to raise funds to reimburse the State.

Mr Hourigan said his client is a father of three children and requested an adjournment of the case to allow him to raise the money. He said Dunne has said he could have up to €3,000 in four to six weeks.

Judge Martin Nolan said the offences were “crimes of deviousness” and Dunne “spotted an opportunity” and stole the money by pretending to be his dead brother.

He said the State ultimately “put two and two together” and discovered the fraud before he acknowledged that Dunne “wants to make some form of restitution”.

Judge Nolan said it was “a prolonged pattern of misbehaviour” and that if Dunne had not been detected, he would have continued.

He described the crime as “devious” and “insidious.”

Judge Nolan said the mitigating factors include Dunne’s guilty plea and that there was a certain level of cooperation between him and authorities.

He noted that the loss to the State “is probably not on the higher end”.

“The loss to the State is not the greatest, and therefore I’m not going to imprison Mr Dunne principally because he has a pretty good past record,” said the judge, adding that if a higher amount had been fraudulently claimed, the sentence may have been different.

Judge Nolan imposed a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence on Dunne, but suspended it in its entirety.

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