Paul Murray (63), who had not lived in Ireland for 37 years, was recently convicted of what has been termed the single largest social welfare fraud committed in the country in the past three decades.
The Irish Times reports that he claimed some 248,000 euro using nine different aliases, offering the simple excuse that the money was “easy to access.” He was jailed for 12 years for the crimes, which have been described as “audacious and breathtaking.”
Judge Anthony Kennedy imposed a six month sentence for each of the 25 sample theft charges Murray faced, with an additional concurrent sentence of three years imposed for possession of a fake passport.
Based in Thailand but returning to Ireland every three months to file for jobseeker’s allowance, Murray also claimed disability and supplementary welfare allowances to which he was not entitled.
His seven bank accounts now hold only 11,000 euro of the money, which he used to travel the world. A further 37,000 euro inheritance was also reportedly spent while Murray was lodging false claims between 2002 and 2010.
The scam unraveled when Murray’s brother Patrick innocently applied for a passport in Australia. It then came to light that his brother Paul had already made a passport application in that name, and officials brought this to the attention of the Department of Social Protection.
Murray then returned to Cavan on October 19 of last year and was immediately arrested by Detective Garda Peter Kelly. The Times reported that Murray told Kelly: “You’ve caught me red-handed”, then showed him 50 or so supporting documents which he kept hidden in his van, many of which were falsified.
Murray had previously been jailed in the UK for similar fraud totaling £30,000.