Woman said dead son was alive to claim disability payment

Judge hands down 18-month suspended sentence over ‘sad’ and ‘bizarre’ offence

A 44-year-old woman who pretended her dead son was still alive so she could claim his disability payment has been given an 18-month suspended sentence for her "sad" and "bizarre" offence.

Dylan McCarthy (16) was granted a disability allowance shortly before he was tragically killed in a car crash on November 1st, 2014, the Central Criminal Court in Tralee, Co Kerry, was told.

Later that month, his mother, Jean Anne McCarthy presented herself at Bank of Ireland in Tralee with a young man "whom she claimed was her son Dylan" to open an account in Dylan's name.

The Department of Social Protection had received written instructions from a person purporting to be Dylan, which led to the payment of the €188-a-week allowance between December 3rd and the following May.


Later, a person who was revealed to have been Ms McCarthy contacted Department of Social Protection to say Dylan had now gone to Australia and the payments should cease, the judge said.

“However, the department became aware that he died in a road traffic accident on November 1st, 2014,” Judge Thomas E O’Donnell recounted, saying he was conscious of the “extremely tragic background” to the case.

A handwriting analysis confirmed letters and other documents were in the handwriting of McCarthy, of Cois Coille, Tralee, Co Kerry, a married woman and a mother of four living children.

She pleaded guilty last September to 25 counts of theft between December 3rd, 2014, and May 27th, 2015, and of obtaining money by deception at Bank of Ireland’s Castle Street branch.

The facts of the case had already been given by Det John Alfred. Defence barrister Richard Liston asked for leniency given the "tragic nature" of the case. The teenager had mental-health difficulties.

Ms McCarthy had “no recollection” of having opened the account, the court had been told. The €7,940 claimed was spent on groceries, payments to Sky and a hair salon.

The judge remarked – from the reports handed into court – that the funeral costs for her son had been “extremely expensive”. All of the money has been paid back from her own welfare payments.

Ms McCarthy is unemployed. Her four remaining children were aged eight to 21, and she was a full-time homemaker and parent. She had been under doctor’s care because of her loss.

“This lady was not in a good place at the time, and her thought patterns were skewed to say the least,” the judge said. She had no convictions before, or since and had been co-operative.