A Polish man who works as a chef in Castlebar, who signed on for social welfare benefits of a friend of his who had returned to Poland, was sentenced to six months in prison at Claremorris District Court this week.
Krzsztof Ozimkowski, Tucker Street, Castlebar, pleaded guilty to four counts of the fraud which saw a total of €1,599.40 being paid out to him fraudulently at Knock post office. Sgt Eric Godfrey told the court that he arrested Ozimkowski at Knock Post Office on March 5 at 10.15am following a surveillance operation after the suspicions of the social welfare inspector had been raised in the weeks previously.
Sgt Godfrey told the court that CCTV footage showed Ozimkowski claiming the benefit on March 12 2011 when he was paid €422.20, then on March 19 he claimed the same amount. On February 26 he claimed €89.40 only after the suspicions of the social welfare inspector had been aroused and the main part of the benefit had been cut off. Then on March 5, Sgt Godfrey was involved in a surveillance investigation after being contacted by the social welfare inspectors and he saw Ozimkowski arrive at the post office with another man in a car and go in and claim €665.60 in benefits. Sgt Godfrey arrested Ozimkowski afterwards and recovered the €665.60.
The defendant told the court that he did not know what he was doing was illegal, as he had been asked by his friend to claim the money for him. He went on to tell the court that he transferred all the money, bar taking a small amount out for petrol costs, to his friend’s bank account in the Bank of Ireland in Castlebar. When asked by Judge Mary Devins if he had any paperwork from his account to show this, she was told he did not bring any.
Judge Mary Devins told the court that she did not believe that Ozimkowski was just doing this to help a friend, but was doing it to defraud the small Republic of Ireland. She also commented that a lot of people will be glad that the Department of Social Protection and the Gardaí are working together on cases like this.
For the offence on the date of February 12 she convicted and sentenced him to three months in prison, for the offence on February 19 she convicted and sentenced him to three months in prison to run consecutively, and for the offences on February 26 and March 5 she convicted and sentenced him to three months in prison, to run concurrently, on both counts. Recognisance was fixed in case of an appeal.