A man who fraudulently claimed the pensions of his dead parents for 33 years was only caught out when his father became eligible for the centenary bounty cheque for reaching the age of 100, a court has heard.
Investigating gardaí indicated that Donal (Don) O’Callaghan of 4 Churchfield Green in Cork city conducted the largest and longest running known case of welfare fraud in State history. The 58-year-old claimed the pensions of his dead parents, Donald and Eileen, from 1987 to 2020 defrauding the State of in excess of half a million euro.
Garda Michael Nagle, who is based at the Department of Social Protection, told Cork Circuit Criminal Court that the Garda investigation also led to the revelation that Donald O’Callaghan Senior, the father of the defendant, had claimed a pension for his dead wife from 1979 until his own death in 1987.
Upon the death of Donald O’Callaghan Senior in 1987, father of one Don started claiming the State pension for both his father and mother.
Garda Nagle said that the offences emerged in July 2020 when a social welfare inspector at Hanover Street, Cork, received notification of a pensioner in Cork, Donald O’Callaghan, who was due to reach 100 years of age.
Unable to make contact with anybody else who could verify the information, in August 2020, a social welfare inspector spoke with Garda Nagle about the matter.
In a bid to verify that Donald O’ Callaghan was alive, Garda Nagle contacted the public health nurse, home help services, local GPs and all of the main hospitals in the city. Donald O’ Callaghan or Eileen O’ Callaghan were not known to any of them.
No death certs could be located. Garda Nagle started to carry out surveillance of the O’Callaghan home on the northside of the city.
O’Callaghan has pleaded guilty to 73 sample counts of social welfare fraud dating back over three decades. Of these, 68 counts relate to theft while five refer to false documentation in support of the fraudulent claims.
Defence barrister Ray Boland claimed that his client had a chronic gambling addiction for which he was seeking treatment. He pleaded for leniency in the case given the guilty plea, his client’s co-operation with gardaí and his lack of previous convictions.
Judge Helen Boyle adjourned the case until Wednesday morning to consider her position on sentencing.