Fraudsters secure €187,000 of pandemic unemployment payment, gardaí find

Arrest made in investigation after identities of 73 people used to apply for PUP

Gardaí made another arrest as part of an investigation into PUP fraud. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Gardaí made another arrest as part of an investigation into PUP fraud. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

An organised social welfare fraud based on deceptively securing the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) netted the criminals involved almost €200,000, gardaí have established.

The identities of 73 innocent and unsuspecting people were used by the fraudsters to apply for the weekly PUP in their names.

The Irish Times reported in December that a large volume of people during the summer received emails purporting to be from the Irish Court Service effectively calling them to perform jury duty.

The recipients of the emails were asked to complete a document attached to the email and to include their personal details including full name, address and PPS numbers. However, the emails were from a fraud gang passing itself as the Irish Court Service in the emails.

When the personal details were returned by 73 unsuspecting victims who believed they were complying with a request to serve on a jury, their details were used to claim the PUP of up to €350 per week.

On Tuesday gardaí made another arrest in the case, in Cork, having made their first arrest, also in Cork, in December.

The criminal investigation is being carried out by the National Economic Crime Bureau and gardaí seconded to the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

It has now established that €187,000 was paid out to the fraudsters as they were running the fraud for a number of months before it was detected.

The man arrested on Tuesday is aged 35 years and was detained in the Midleton area. He was being held at Cobh Garda station under Section 50 of the Criminal Justice Act, which allows for the detention of a suspect for up to seven days without charge.

The PUP payments, all of which were approved by the Department of Social Protection, were paid into various accounts – including An Post accounts and even credit card accounts – that had been opened by the fraudsters using false passports and other forms of identification.

The criminal investigation has also discovered that all of the emails sent to the 73 people whose identities were used to claim the PUP came from the same email address.

*Article amended at 8.45pm on March 10th, 2021.