24 May 2022

Suspended sentence for man who claimed social welfare while living abroad

His brother collected his weekly payments on his behalf

Donegal Town Courthouse

Donegal Town Courthouse

A man has been handed down a two-month suspended prison sentence for claiming Jobseekers Allowance in Donegal while living in Lithuania.

His brother who collected the payments over a four-month period was given the benefit of the Probation of Offenders Act Section 1.1.

Jevgenijs Abolins, 37, of 237 St Josephs Avenue, Donegal Town was before Donegal District Court on Wednesday. He had previously pleaded guilty to stealing Social Welfare Jobseekers’ Allowance to the amount of €2,842 at Donegal Town Post Office from November 20, 2020 to March 13, 2021.

His brother Pavel Abolinsh, 41, of 4 Woodvale, Rossylongan, Donegal Town was before the same court sitting. He had previously pleaded guilty to three sample charges of paying out Jobseekers Allowance to the amount in respect of Jevgenis Abolins with the intention of making gain for another. The sample charges occurred at Donegal Town Post Office on December 2, 2020 (€406), December 9, 2020 (€203) and February 24, 2021(€203).

The matter was originally heard at a court sitting in February and was adjourned to Wednesday last for preparation of probation reports. 

At the February hearing, Inspector David Durkin told the court that  CCTV footage from the Post Office showed transactions for payments to Jevgenijs Abolins taking place while he was in Lithuania.

He said the defendant had confirmed that his brother Pavel had been collecting social welfare for him while he was in Lithuania. Pavel had been paying the money into the bank account of Jevgenijs. 

The inspector said that Jevgenijs had previously filled out a form nominating another person to collect his social welfare payment while he was on holiday. This, the inspector said, showed that Jevgenijs was aware of his obligation to notify the department if he was out of the country. 

At last Wednesday’s court sitting, solicitor Rory O’Brien said: “The [probation] reports are excellent in my respectful submission to the court.”

He said both defendants were deemed to be at a low risk of reoffending, a status that was difficult to obtain. 

Mr O’Brien stressed that the brothers had each been very cooperative, and had made ‘a silly mistake.’

He added: “I ask if the court would take the steps of leaving both defendants without a conviction. It is the only mistake either gentleman has ever made in their lives.”

The court heard that the money had since been repaid in full by Jevgenijs Abolins.

Judge Sandra Murphy said she was satisfied that Pavel Abolinsh had not benefited in any way from the offences. 

“My feeling and my sense of this is that he was facilitating his brother. He didn’t benefit from it at all and has paid a very high price.”

The judge said she was also taking into account the defendant’s guilty plea and his personal circumstances which were outlined to the court. 

“There was an issue as to whether or not he knew what was going on,” she added. 

Pavel Abolinsh received the benefit of the Probation of Offenders Act, leaving him without a conviction. 

In relation to his brother Jevgenijs, Judge Murphy said: “He is very much the author of this scheme.

“Social Welfare fraud is something the court takes extremely seriously.”

The judge said she would take into account that the offences had occurred during Covid and there was not a lot of clarity around some things. She also acknowledged the favourable probation report.

Jevgenijs Abolins was sentenced to two months in prison, suspended for two months.

Recognisance was set at a bond of €250 and a cash lodgement of €250 in the event of an appeal.

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