Fraudsters making money out of providing false documents to foreigners so they can deceive Social Welfare offices must be stopped, according to a Circuit Court judge when he was told that there had been six such cases in Galway this year alone.
Judge Raymond Groarke made his comments at Galway Circuit Appeals Court last week when hearing the case of Anthony Gomina who had appealed the severity of a nine month sentence imposed in March of this year for possessing false documents and producing them to staff at the Social Welfare office at Hynes’ Building, Augustine Street, for the purpose of obtaining a PPS number.
Thirty-six-year-old Gomina with an address at 71 Cois Na hAbhainn, Ballygaddy Road, Tuam, had been charged and pleaded guilty to producing a false British passport and British birth certificate on February 6, 2008, in order to get the PPS for employment. State solicitor Mr Willie Kennedy told Judge Groarke that staff at the Social Welfare office became suspicious and contacted gardaí. He said that the appellant, who is married with two children, had a visiting visa which ran out on March 12, 2008. He added that he was not certain of Gomina’s present status.
Gomina’s barrister, Ms Geri Silke, BL, said that her client had the option to do a PhD programme in the UK but stayed in Ireland because his child had severe special needs and his pregnant wife was not able to cope. She said that he assists in the minding of the child and that the child had recently been admitted to hospital following an epileptic attack. She said that while Gomina accepts this is not an excuse he would prefer to be available to provide for his five-year-old child who “needs to be watched night and day”. She asked the judge to consider suspending the sentence.
Later in the afternoon following a request by Judge Groarke, Det Sgt Garda Brendan Carroll gave evidence that there had been up to 14 similar incidents since 2004 but that there had been a “significant increase” this year with six reported.
After hearing the evidence, Judge Groarke noted that it was sometimes difficult for the court to “balance the interests of all parties” but on the other hand “the law has to be respected”. He said that the offence was committed with “some degree of premeditation” when Gomina “obtained the help of professional fraudsters to get documents to assist him in particular ways”. “He knew perfectly well what he was doing,” the judge said.
“This is an offence which is committed far too regularly and in a schematic and professional way... There are people out there making vast sums of money so I have to say hold on a minute and put a stop to it,” said Judge Groarke who made the sentence concurrent, reducing it to four months.