Man who fraudulently claimed over €60,000 in social welfare is jailed

By Jessica Magee

A “man of energy, industry and ability” who fraudulently claimed over €60,000 in social welfare payments has been sentenced to two years in prison, reports Jessica Magee.

Father-of-three Samuel Peprah (42) claimed various social welfare allowances over a three year period while working full time in the kitchens of the Merrion Hotel, Dublin.

Dublin Criminal Courts of Justice 2 October 2016

Peprah, originally from Ghana but with an address at Wood Avens, Clondalkin, pleaded guilty to sample counts representing 22 charges of fraud committed between October 2013 and November 2016.

The State was left at a total loss of €63,218.

Passing sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on Wednesday, Judge Martin Nolan described Peprah as “a man of energy, industry and ability”.

Judge Nolan said social welfare payments provided a safety net for people in difficulties and that for the system to work, it had to be user friendly and therefore was open to fraud.

He said it was impossible to make the social welfare system “fraud-proof” and that Peprah had “spotted an opportunity” and defrauded the State for three years “by intelligence and duplicity”.

“It may be easy done at times, but when you're caught, you pay a price,” warned Judge Nolan, who set the headline sentence in the case at four years.

The judge said the mitigating factors included Peprah's lack of any criminal record, his guilty plea and his work history.

The court heard that Peprah had worked under an assumed name while claiming Rent Allowance, Jobseekers' Allowance and Basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance under his own name.

Garda Thomas Burke told Eoin Lawlor BL, prosecuting, that suspicions were raised with the Department of Social Protection in December 2015.

A department official received a report about a man called Ebenezer Amedayaw who had worked full-time in the kitchens of the Merrion Hotel from 2012 to 2015, earning a total of approximately €100,000.

Gardaí got a warrant and eventually searched Peprah's home, where they found a number of documents relating to the identities of Peprah and Amedayaw.

Peprah was arrested in November 2016 and made full admissions.

He said his brother Ebenezer Amedayaw had visited from Belgium in 2010 and that he, Peprah, asked his brother if he could use his Belgian identity to claim in Ireland.

They agreed that Peprah would give his brother up to €200 a month for using his identity.

Peprah told gardaí that he knew he had committed an offence and apologised, pledging to pay the money back no matter how long it took.

The court heard that Peprah has so far repaid about €1,500 and is currently making repayments of about €70 a week.

“At this current rate of repayment, it would take 17 years to pay back the State,” said Garda Burke.

Gda Burke said Peprah is now employed by the HSE and works full-time as a care assistant, earning sometimes €300 a night.

Luigi Rea BL, defending, said Peprah has “exceptional skill” in looking after people with dementia.

Mr Rea said his client's father died two weeks ago and that his elderly mother lives in Ghana.

Peprah has three young children with his partner from whom he is separated.

“There's no doubt, he's a man of industry. He would have taken home about €50,000 a year into his hand,” remarked Judge Nolan.

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