A mother of six has been jailed for social welfare fraud – as her car dealer husband channelled over $1.5million through their bank account.

Mary Connors cried and pleaded for mercy from the judge as he sentenced her to three years in jail for the $350,000 fraud claim.

The sentence is the maximum allowed under Irish law, and Judge Martin Nolan declared: “I am sending out a message to all social welfare fraudsters.”

Tallaght Court heard that Connors had raked in the dole money over a period of 14 years even though the revenue from her husband’s car business was passing through her account.

The Irish Sun reports that the money in the accounts came from her husband buying and selling cars but they were in her name as he was a chronic alcoholic and couldn’t be trusted.

Local Tallaght resident Connors pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to eight sample counts of failing to notify the Department of Social Protection of an increase in her means between 1996 and 2010.

The court also heard she has six previous convictions, including ones for burglary and handling stolen property.

Police were searching Connors’ home in relation to a separate matter when they came across documents showing she had almost $170,000 in a Permanent TSB account.

They later discovered that she had another TSB account containing €200,000 as well as an investment bond worth $20,000.

Since the first account was opened in 1992, over $1.5million was lodged into them and $1million withdrawn.

Connors’ legal team told the court she had stayed in women’s refuges 40 times, sometimes with injuries, because of her husband’s drinking.

Connors, a 36 year-old Traveller who married at 16, cried, “Oh my God please” as Judge Nolan imposed the maximum sentence allowed for the offence.

Mary ConnorsThe Irish Sun