File photo: Naas Circuit Court
A Moldovan man, who claimed over €30,000 in job seekers allowance under a false identity, was jailed for 18 months at Naas Circuit Court today.
Facial recognition software at the Maynooth social welfare office uncovered the fact that Ivan Zaporojan of No 111 Leixlip Park, Leixlip, had been claiming the payments under a fake Lithuanian alias for almost seven years.
The court heard that when someone applies for social welfare payments, they have to provide documentation and proof of identity. Their photo is also taken and this image is assigned to that PPS number.
When Mr Zaporojan attended the Maynooth office in 2015, the imaging software scanned his face, and matched him with the false identity.
Garda Thomás Burke was called in to investigate on behalf of the Department of Social Protection. He said the accused’s home was searched and they found an Irish driving licence in the name of the false Lithuanian identity.
It was discovered the defendant had been claiming the job seekers top up from December 2008 to September 2015. No money was paid back.
The court heard the quarry worker was co-operative and admitted the offences during garda interviews. His barrister said her client had been working in a low income job under the false name, paying his taxes, and claiming under the same false name.
She said if he had been from an EU country, he would have been entitled to work and claim the top up payments.
Gda Burke agreed that after 2012, the defendant would have been able to claim under his own name, as his country had joined the EU.
The barrister was keen to point out her client had not been “double dipping” or claiming under the two names. She said he was 49 years-old, had a partner and five children back in Eastern Europe. She said he also provided money for his sister in law’s children.
Judge Michael O’Shea was informed he has no previous convictions and has a long working history. The court was told he came to Ireland to make a better life for his family.
The Probation Service viewed him as being of low risk of reoffending. His defence team said he had €1,500 in court to hand over.
Judge O’Shea took into account the serious nature of the offence, and the mitigating factors of the case.
He branded the accused's actions as “continuous and systematic dishonesty.”
“In respect of the deception, this was not spontaneous, it was certainly planned and opportunistic in regard to the method of the false identity, and by the method of the false documents he had to produce,” he said.
“This is a substantial amount of money, it’s a substantial loss to the Department of Social Welfare, resulting in a substantial loss to the State,” he added.
He sentenced the defendant to three years in jail on the first count, but suspended the final 18 months of the sentence.
He also handed down an 18 month sentence, but suspended the last six months of the term.
The suspensions of the jail terms were handed down on condition the defendant would not come to the attention of the gardaí in the 18 months after his release.
Both sentences are to run concurrently.