Woman gets suspended jail term for welfare fraud

Sibyl Montague flew from London every month and collected more than €43,000 in social welfare payments over four-year period

Sybil Montague: “Perhaps it was a bad decision all along. I am very sorry for the money I have taken.”

Sybil Montague: “Perhaps it was a bad decision all along. I am very sorry for the money I have taken.”

Tue, Apr 30, 2013, 06:00

A 33-year-old woman who flew from London to Ireland every month and collected more than €43,000 in social welfare payments over a four-year period was yesterday given a three -year suspended sentence after the court heard she had repaid the money.

Sibyl Montague, Cois Coillte, Tivoli, Cork had pleaded guilty to 17 sample counts of theft when she claimed jobseeker’s allowances to which she was not entitled for the period between July 2008 and October 2012 when she was not living in Ireland.

But yesterday Montague apologised for her behaviour to Judge Patrick Moran at Cork Circuit Criminal Court, saying she realised she had “made a really bad decision” and she was sorry for all the trouble she had caused by her actions. The court heard Montague had a difficult upbringing in that her parents separated when she was 12 and she and her sister ended up caring for their mother throughout their teenage years after her mother had a stroke.

‘Bad decision’
“I wanted to remain close to my mum [who had health difficulties in Cork] and I also wanted to pursue a master’s degree in a prestigious university I was accepted in. Perhaps it was a bad decision all along. I am very sorry for the money I have taken,” she said.

Montague had repaid all the money, borrowing from family and friends while she had also co-operated fully with the Garda investigation once she was confronted with the fraud.

Det Garda Pádraig Harrington told the court that Montague was detected after the regional inspector of social welfare, Brian Kearney, examined flight manifests and found Montague was flying in each month and signing on in Cork a day later. “Sibyl Montague was permanently resident outside the jurisdiction and flying back in once per month, claiming jobseeker’s allowance,” he said.

The judge noted that Montague had repaid all the money and imposed a three-year suspended term.