140,000 euro not declared

A Buncrana woman was paid the full amount of One Parent Family Allowance after failing to declare 140,000 euro in her bank account.

Siobhan Coulter-Lee, Cul Crannac, Aileach Road, Buncrana was fined after she appeared at Buncrana District Court, at which she pleaded guilty to the offence.

The court heard evidence from Mr. McElwaine, a Department of Social Protection Inspector, who said they received information from Revenue in relation to a bank account held by the accused. An investigation found there was 140,000 euro in the account, which hadn’t been declared to the Department. The court was told an individual in receipt of the allowance is only permitted to have up to 20,000 euro in a bank account.

Following the investigation there was a revised assessment of the mother-of-two’s entitlements from September 1st, 2008 until 12th June, 2013. This found she had been overpaid by 36,237 euro, all of which has been fully recovered from her. The charges for which Coulter-Lee was before court were dated 22nd January, 2009 until 11th May, 2011 and amounted to 18,015 overpayment.

Mr McElwaine said Coulter-Lee had completed review forms on four separate occasions and failed to declare the money. He said she was co-operative with the department and made full admissions.

Defence solicitor Ray Lannon said Coulter-Lee was separated from her husband and had obtained the money following the sale of the family home.

He said she had intended to use the money to buy another for her and her two children but much of it was invested in her mother’s property, which she lived in.

Judge Kelly said those who obtain the payments wrongly do so “at the expense of people who really need it.” He added he accepted Coulter-Lee had difficulties, but was in the fortunate position where she had acquired a substantial amount of money and “the net effect is that people in desperate need suffer.”He fined her 250 euro on one charge and applied the Probation Act on two others.