Pensioner used dead brother’s identification to claim €93,000 in bogus benefits

March 24, 2023

A man has admitted used his dead brother’s identity to claim more than €93,000 in benefits.

Pensioner Aidan Byrne, 75, appeared before Donegal Circuit Court, charged with a range of fraud-related offences.

Byrne’s brother Anthony died tragically in a drowning accident in England in 1972.

The accused, a native of Wexford, had lived in England for a number of years but returned to Ireland in 2000 and later began to use his dead brother’s identity to claim various benefits.

The court was told that between June, 2015 and August, 2021 he claimed a total of €83,157 in pension and fuel allowances on behalf of his dead brother.

He also applied for a medical card from the HSE in his brother’s name and claimed €10,858 for various different treatments including optical and doctor’s visits between June, 2012 and December, 2021.

Byrne had been enabled after applying for a passport in his dead brother’s name using his brother’s birth certificate but his own picture on the passport.

Byrne’s bogus claims only came to light when he made another passport application under his own name in 2019.

Eagle-eyed passport office workers using facial imaging noticed both pictures under two different passport names were identical and the information was passed on to the Department of Social Protection.

The information was in turn passed onto Gardai who launched an investigation.

Byrne pleaded guilty to a range of charges including theft from both the Department of Social Protection and the HSE, forgery and using a false instrument.

Barrister for the State, Mr David Keane, said there was a number of other charges which could be taken into consideration by the court.

Detective Garda Paul Lynch outlined the background to the case and how Byrne had emigrated to England in the 1960s along with his brother but that he had drowned in an accident in Epping in 1972.

He told how Byrne used his dead brother’s birth cert to get a passport under his brother’s name but using his own picture.

He applied to get the State pension under the name Anthony Byrne between June 2015 and August, 2021 during which time both pension and fuel allowance payments totalling €83,157.29 were all lodged through electronic fund transfer to Byrne’s account at Ulster Bank.

Detective Lynch also told that Byrne also used the false identification to obtain a medical card through the HSE and claimed €10858 in various treatments including doctor’s visits and optical treatments.

When Gardai called to his home at  26 Ard McGill, Glenties on August 16th, 2021, they found €2,840 in cash at the house and later found Byrne had €16,238 in a bank account which has since been frozen.

Gardai also found a medical card and a death certificate in the name of his brother Antony Joseph Byrne showing he had died on September 28th, 1972 in a drowning accident.

Byrne was arrested and on  December 6th, 2022 he pleaded guilty to a number of related charges.

Barrister for the accused, Mr Colm Smith, SC, said his client had never been in trouble before and this was a huge “fall from grace” for him.

His family including his three daughters no longer spoke to him because of his actions.

He added that Byrne had suffered from a number of medical complaints including diabetes, had also suffered a stroke and was on a range of medication daily.

The accused took to the stand and said he was very sorry and that this was “a very bad idea.”

The court heard the accused now lived in a council house in Glenties and was a man of no means and that monies in his bank account, some €16,000, had been frozen by the courts.

Pleading to the court that a custodial sentence and jail would be a “very difficult place” for a man of such years, barrister Colm Smyth said his client had never dealt with the law before either in Ireland or England.

He had that with his client paying back €50 per week to the state,  it will take in excess of 30 years to pay back that money and  the reality is that the bulk of the money will never be paid back.

He added that his client did plead guilty at the first opportunity and he had been deemed as being of a low risk of reoffending.

“Prison would be a hardship for him and I ask you to be as lenient as you can,” asked Mr Smyth.

Judge John Aylmer said he needed time to consider the sentence and put the case back until May 2nd for finalisation.