A construction worker has been found guilty of concealing €135,000 in savings from social welfare inspectors when he applied for jobseeker’s allowance.
Anthony Lennon, 48, with an address at Grange Park Road, Raheny, Dublin 5, was prosecuted at by the Department of Social Protection.
He pleaded not guilty but was convicted following a hearing on Wednesday at Dublin District Court. A social welfare investigation was carried out after information was received that Lennon had undeclared funds which made him ineligible for the allowance.
Lennon received €14,000 in means-tested Jobseeker’s allowance payments, the court was told.
Judge Anthony Halpin adjourned sentencing for a probation report on his suitability for 120 hours' community service in lieu of a prison sentence.
The court heard the defendant signed on when he needed work in the aftermath of the recession.
Social welfare inspector Frank Maloney gave evidence that his department was supplied with a list of people who had paid DIRT, a tax on interest on savings.
The court heard that when he applied for the allowance he had not told the department about funds he had in two bank accounts.
He had ticked a box in his application saying he did not have money in a bank or a credit union. The court heard he signed a declaration that also included a warning that it was an offence to conceal information in a social welfare application. The inspector said the defendant had substantially more in his accounts than he declared.
He got the benefit from May 2009 until May 2010.
There was a gap when he resumed working but he re-applied for the benefit in March 2012 which he received until October the following year. The court heard on a number of occasions he was asked to fill out forms in which he said his circumstances had not changed.
The court heard he was overpaid by €14,249.
The inspector said he interviewed him seven times in 2016. He showed the defendant his claim form. He told the court he asked him if it was his signature and Lennon replied – “I have no reason to believe it is not”.
He would not have been eligible for the Jobseeker’s allowance if he had declared the amount he had in savings.
In evidence, Lennon said he had not wanted to go on the dole. He denied ticking the box and maintained he was entitled to the payment.
He had lost his job in 2009 after the recession hit and when he filled out the forms he was told it was a formality, he said. He claimed he told a staff member in the department about the money.
He said he owed the money in his savings accounts to pay for his home, with his father. He had also done work on the house, he said.
Pleading for leniency, defence barrister Matthew Holmes said his client, who had no prior convictions, had difficulties and was a person who felt he was treated unfairly in a previous job.