A Gweedore man who conned the Department of Social Protection out of €134,000 would need to win the lottery to pay back the State, a court has heard.
Judge Paul Kelly made the remark as he heard that Micheal O’Donnell, Lower Brinaleck, was paying back €30 per week to the Department.
The judge said he was “at a loss for words at the scale of the deception”.
The fraud was carried out over a period of 15 years, Dungloe District Court heard.
O’Donnell was prosecuted for a period of four years and pleaded guilty to deception that came to a total of €29,885.29 for four sample charges in 2004, 2014, 2015 and 2016.
He pleaded guilty to a charge that on June 17 2004, for the purpose of obtaining Jobseeker’s Allowance, he falsely claimed that he had no capital when in fact he did have money in Allied Irish Bank.
Donegal State Solicitor Ciaran Liddy said the amount taken was €134,000 over a period of 15 years.
Judge Kelly said it was a very substantial case and there was not the remotest possibility of the total amount being paid back.
Defence solicitor Robert Ryan said a probation report showed the defendant was at a low risk of re-offending. His marriage had broken down and he was paying some maintenance.
The defendant had no work due to the pandemic but hoped to pay back the State when he got employment.
Judge Kelly said that unless the defendant wins the Lotto, the State will not get its money back.
The judge imposed a Community Service Order of 120 hours in lieu of four months in jail. The remaining charges were all taken into consideration.