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€48,000 welfare fraud student caught using false identity

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Facial recognition software, used by the Department of Social Protection to clamp down on welfare fraud, identified an NUIG student who was claiming social welfare under a false name over a five-year period.

A blue jacket, worn by the final year engineering student while fraudulently claiming social welfare at two city Post Offices, also helped seal the fate of Aboubakar Youssouf (36), with addresses at 4 Clifden House Apartments, Newcastle, and Carraig Laith, Newcastle.

Youssouf pleaded guilty before Galway Circuit Criminal Court last March to 22 sample counts of stealing an estimated €47,821 from the Department of Social Protection on dates between October, 2011 and January, 2015.

The court was told he was fraudulently claiming €259 per week under a false identity and that no money had been returned to the State.

Detective Julie McCormack of the Special Investigations Unit, based in Dublin, gave evidence at the sentence hearing last week that on February 26 last year the Identity Control Section at the Department of Social Protection checked their database, using facial recognition software, and discovered the accused was using his own identity and a similar, fraudulent identity to claim social welfare payments between October, 2011 and January, 2015.

The accused, she said, had used his false identity to register for asylum in Ireland in 2005 and he claimed Job Seeker’s Allowance and Rent Allowance from October, 2011 to January of last year, receiving €259 per week.

Det McCormack said Aboubakar was now a French national and was resident in Ireland as an EU citizen.

He was arrested on May 8 last year in relation to the welfare fraud.

He told Gardai he came from Sudan originally and registered for asylum in France in 2003 under his real name.

He travelled to Ireland in 2005, while still waiting for asylum in France, and registered for asylum here under the false identity – which was a variation of his correct name and date of birth – and received direct provision here in 2005 and 2006.

He went back to France and got asylum there in 2007, becoming a French citizen and receiving a French passport. He then returned to Ireland in 2011 and used his false identity again to claim social welfare.

Judge Rory McCabe asked Det McCormack if Youssouf had come here in 2011 as a French citizen, and looked for asylum here by claiming he had come from Sudan.

She explained he was going to college here under his true identity while claiming social welfare under the false identity.

Judge McCabe asked what had happened to the accused’s Irish asylum application and was told it had not been fully finalised but he had been given Irish travel documents – under the false name – so that he could travel.

Det McCormack said Youssouf’s house was searched last May and a number of documents were seized that linked him to his true identity, including his French passport.

A false driving licence, a social welfare card, a public service card, bank accounts and all the social welfare documents which bore his false name and details, were also seized.

Det McCormack said a blue jacket was found during the search which matched a jacket Youssouf regularly wore when he went to fraudulently collect social welfare payments at Bohermore and Renmore Post Offices.  The transactions were captured on CCTV at the time.

Det McCormack said Youssouf was in his final year in mechanical engineering in NUIG and was also working in a local restaurant.

She said he was married to a Chad national, who is also an EU national and she was entitled to stay here. The couple have two children, she added.

Det McCormack said she didn’t know if the State was supporting Youssouf’s education at NUIG.

Defence barrister, Brendan Browne said the accused used the money to support his family and send money home to his sick mother.

She said Youssouf had been offered a place on the Masters Programme and if he was given an opportunity to complete his exams, his job prospects might help him make restitution to the State.

She said he was due to sit his exams next month and would take the place on the Masters Programme if his results were good.

Judge Rory McCabe said this had been a well-planned, premeditated, long-term fraud and the layers of cheating involved were evident.

The accused, he said, had systematically increased his illegal access to State payments, even while working.

The judge said the accused was fortunate his criminality was being dealt with in this jurisdiction as he had told the probation service himself that the range of penalties in his country of origin were very severe.

Judge McCabe said the appropriate sentence was three years and six months for each charge to run concurrently, but he adjourned sentence for one year, to allow the accused finish his education, to give him time to reflect on how he will pay back the money and to make preparations for his wife and children while he goes to prison.

CITY TRIBUNE

Hero’s welcome following rescue of two women on Galway Bay

Stephen Corrigan

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Patrick Oliver and his son Morgan, who rescued Sara Feeney and Ellen Glynn off Inis Oirr island, on their arrival back at the Galway RNLI Lifeboat Station at Galway Docks. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The miraculous rescue on Galway Bay yesterday of two young women from Knocknacarra brought 15 long hours of searching to a euphoric conclusion, as cousins Sara Feeney (23) and Ellen Glynn (17) were brought safely to shore.

A major search and rescue operation was launched after the pair went missing from Furbo Beach on Wednesday night, when they were swept away by a sudden wind while paddle boarding.

Claddagh fisherman and former Lifeboat shore crew member Patrick Oliver and his 18-year-old son Morgan joined the search early on Thursday morning and were the heroes of the hour after they discovered the two women on their boards, clinging to a lobster pot about two miles south-west of Inis Oírr, where despite their ordeal, they were described as “ok, but shaken”.

In the face of torrential rain and high winds overnight, both women had drifted almost 20 miles out to sea, but amazingly neither required serious medical attention.

Sara’s mother, Helen Feeney, raised the alarm shortly after 9pm on Wednesday evening when she noticed the pair missing as she walked their dog along the shore.

Sara, a daughter of Helen and Bernard Tonge, and Ellen, daughter Deirdre and well-known former captain of Galway United Johnny Glynn, were both said to be in good spirits at the hospital yesterday afternoon.

One relative told the Galway City Tribune that the family was “utterly humbled by the generosity of people” who had took part in the search and said, “unbelievable doesn’t even begin to describe it”.

“Thank you from all the family to everyone who helped, words will never express our gratitude.”
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read it in full, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

Photo: Patrick Oliver and his son Morgan, who rescued Sara Feeney and Ellen Glynn off Inis Oirr island, on their arrival back at the Galway RNLI Lifeboat Station at Galway Docks. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway farm operators fall fowl of locals

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Neighbours of Mad Yolk Farm have asked Galway City Council to determine whether planning permission is required for a portable chicken coop earmarked for the land in Roscam.

This week, Mad Yolk Farm has indicated that it will be adding chickens to the site, which has already been the subject of planning enforcement by the local authority.

In a Facebook post, the operators said they are planning to rear organic chickens on site, with neighbours fearing as many as 450 birds in the chicken ‘caravan’.

“Our chicken caravan is now built and our beaked ladies will arrive in eight days. We’ll be moving the hens onto fresh grass each day and they’ll be free to forage for insects and take mud baths. They’ll be free to behave like a chicken should,” the business said on social media.

It has prompted a neighbour of the property to write the Council to formally ask for a declaration “whether the work/development described in the form is or is not development or is or is not exempted development under Section 5 of the Planning and Development Act”.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read it in full, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Cold water poured on Spanish Arch ‘bushing’ sprinkler plan

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Galway City Council has poured cold water on a suggestion that it should install water sprinklers to deter ‘bushing’ at city centre hotspots for outdoor drinking, such as Spanish Arch.

Councillor Eddie Hoare (FG) this week said the local authority should examine providing sprinklers, to deter bushing, after Spanish Arch and Middle Arch were packed with hundreds of revellers during the sunshine last weekend, and the areas were littered with alcohol bottles and cans.

Cllr Hoare said large crowds were prohibited from gathering outside due to Covid-19 social distancing guidelines, and if the partying continued “Galway will be the next county to be locked down”.

He said CCTV cameras should be installed at Spanish Arch and Middle Arch and added: “Galway City Council should consider installing sprinklers as a long-term solution.”

However, the City Council said it was not its intention to install sprinklers.

“It’s so hot at the moment, if you put out a sprinkler anywhere in Galway, people would just dance under it. We’re so unused to this muggy heat, that if you did that (installed sprinklers), on top of your 12-pack of Bacardi Breezers, or whatever it is young people drink these days, you’d have the biggest wet t-shirt competition this side of Ibiza – people would just dance under them. No, we have no plans for sprinklers,” remarked a City Council spokesperson.

He said the Council was unaware of a separate suggestion – announced by Mayor of Galway Mike Cubbard on social media – that certain city areas be exempted from the street drinking bylaws, to allow them to be monitored and controlled.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read it in full, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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