image-1Former heroin addict used money ‘to support wife and child’. A man who drew down Irish disability benefits for almost two years while in Malaysia has been prosecuted in court after coming back to Dublin.

After the judge heard he had quit drugs, got married and started a family, he was given suspended jail terms totalling 12 months.

Raymond Pullen (31) from Pine Road, Ringsend pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court to 21 sample charges for theft of sums totalling €16,821 from the Department of Social Protection over 91 weeks from September 2010 until June 2012.

The former heroin addict admitted on his arrest that while he was living overseas, he had continued to draw disability allowances which he had been allowed as a result of having a learning difficulty.

Judge William Early was furnished with a probation report today showing Mr Pullen has managed to stay off drugs. He noted it was the 31-year-old’s first offence and a guilty plea had been entered at an early stage.

Earlier Judge Early had said: “There are tax payers the length and breadth of the country working hard to keep Mr Pullen in Malaysia for two years.”

He imposed three consecutive four-month sentences with the remaining charges taken into consideration. However, he suspended them on condition Mr Pullen does not re-offend within the next two years and remains under supervision of the Probation Service for the next 12 months.

Detective Garda Bryan Hunt told the court that on September 3rd 2010, Pullen went to Malaysia. Almost two years later, Gardai received confidential information that he was still there and “was in receipt of disability while present in Malaysia”.

The Department of Social Protection confirmed that while he was out of the country the weekly payments had been lodged into his bank account in Dublin and then “withdrawn in Malaysian Ringgits”.

The social welfare office handling his case stopped the payments in June 2012, when he returned to Ireland and claimed “he had only been on holidays for four weeks”. Later that day, gardaí went to his home to examine his passport which revealed details of his travels.

The 31-year-old admitted he received 91 disability benefit payments while residing in Malaysia.

When evidence was heard in February, Judge Early was told Mr Pullen, who is currently unemployed, had repaid €450; the Department of Social Protection is deducting €20 a week from his benefit payments to recoup the money.

Defence barrister Ruadhan Mac Aodhain said Mr Pullen had been a chronic heroin user from 2002 until 2010. His brother had also died of a heroin overdose in 2009 and the following year Mr Pullen went to Malaysia to “meet who was to become his future wife”.

In November 2010, Pullen got married in Malaysia; he and his wife had a baby there the following year, and during his time abroad he also managed to quit heroin, the court heard.

In Malaysia, he used the money he was claiming to provide for himself as well as his wife and his child, and is now supporting them in Dublin, the judge also heard.

He is now taking part in a community employment scheme and attending a drug addiction rehabilitation programme at the Spellman Centre in Ringsend, in Dublin. He is also more mature and drug free, his had barrister said.

A letter from the addiction treatment centre had suggested that a custodial sentence would be detrimental to his recovery.

By Tom Tuite

Irish Times