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A patient in a waiting room in Helsinki. (Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva)

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THE DISTRICT COURT of Helsinki has sentenced a couple to more than two years in prison for fraudulently obtaining social security benefits from the City of Helsinki, City of Vantaa and Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela).

The couple obtained over 100,000 euros in benefits by pretending that the father and daughter of the family were blind, according to a report published by Helsingin Sanomat on Friday.

The fraudulent activity started in 2014, when the couple succeeded in convincing a doctor that the father had lost 90 per cent of his vision and obtained a certificate of his vision impairment. One year later they made their, at the time, 15-year-old daughter to pretend that also she had lost 90 per cent of her vision by threatening to move back to Ukraine.

She eventually pretended to have a vision impairment for four years at school and doctor’s appointments.

The parents, meanwhile, received a considerable amount of money in sickness allowance, disability allowance for an over 16-year-old child, national and guarantee pensions with the child increase, and care allowance for pensioners from Kela. They were also paid 4,000 euros in home care allowance by the City of Vantaa and 3,000 euros for mobility and reading training by the City of Helsinki.

The long-running benefit fraud was not exposed until the 19-year-old daughter stated to a doctor that her vision is not impaired and that the issue should be reported to Kela.

The District Court of Helsinki on Friday found both of her parents guilty of numerous counts of fraud, aggravated fraud and coercion, sentencing them to more than two years in prison.

Helsingin Sanomat on Friday also reported that both the father and daughter had been subjected to a variety of vision tests and that the test results did not substantiate their claims of vision loss. The tests, however, also revealed minor changes in the retina, leading the doctors to believe the accounts of the patients.

Tero Kivelä, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Helsinki, told the newspaper that experienced physicians, neurologists and ophthalmologists should usually have no difficulty detecting patients who are pretending to have a vision impairment.

“Patients may say they’re blind but walk straight out the door after the appointment,” he explained to Helsingin Sanomat.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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