A MEANUS man claimed over €18,000 in dole payments while working as a debt collector, heard Kilmallock Court.
Thomas Hickey, of Limerick Road, Meanus pleaded guilty to five offences under the Social Welfare Act from June 25, 2012 to January 7, 2014.
State solicitor, Aidan Judge said Hickey”fraudulently drew down funds” and had given undertakings to repay the money but had “signally failed to do so”.
“He has paid back €1,600 and mostly by way of deductions from his social welfare. He was employed by a debt collection agency.
“In 2013, his cash commission was €23,965. Compare that to what he has paid back to date. Saying he is doing his level best is not acceptable. He has no previous convictions,” said Mr Judge, who outlined the maximum penalty per summons was a fine of €2,500 and/or six months in prison.
Brendan Gill, solicitor for Hickey, said his client’s firm carried out an investigation and Hickey lost his position.
“He had to go on social welfare. He has suffered as a consequence of this prosecution. He fully intended repaying it if he remained in full employment. He is currently getting garda vetting to be a security guard,” said Mr Gill.
Mr Judge said Hickey is having money deducted from his social welfare.
“It is not coming out of his own pocket,” said Mr Judge.
Mr Gill said it is a direct consequence of Hickey losing his position.
“It was his intention to repay it. He is a 40-year-old man with a 16-year-old daughter who he is endeavouring to pay maintenance for. He was employed with Dell for a long number of years until he lost his job,” said Mr Gill.
Mr Judge said it is being suggested “this investigation triggered his misfortune”.
“That is palpable nonsense. The Minister is doing his job in protecting the hard pressed taxpayer,” said Mr Judge, who added that his instructions were to ask for a conviction.
Judge Marian O’Leary said if she does convict Hickey he won’t get a job.
“It will take 35 years to get the money back. I am adjourning it to July. If he hasn’t got a job by then I will convict,” said Judge O’Leary.