The largest known social welfare fraud case uncovered with the use of facial recognition software has led to a man being sentenced to three years in prison.

Adrian Vaduva, 44, who pleaded guilty, obtained more than €280,000 in fraudulent social welfare payments over a 16-year period.

He was only found out when a picture taken of him was matched with the picture of another man also claiming social welfare.

It proved that they were one and the same and that Vaduva had been using a false name to claim double benefits.

Wexford Circuit Court heard that Vaduva, who has an address at Riverchapel, Gorey, came to Ireland from Romania in 1999. He was refused asylum but returned five months later with a false birth certificate and ID and gave his name as Eduard Preda.

He was granted asylum and started claiming social welfare payments and allowances under the false name.

Romania joined the EU in 2008 and Vaduva then began claiming social welfare payments under his own name, while also collecting payments as Eduard Preda.

The fraud was carried out at various post offices in Dublin, Cork, Kerry, Arklow and Wexford.

Up until the summer of 2015 he had collected a total of €280,828 using the two identities.

The court heard that a relatively new Cogent Facial Imaging Matching Software (CFIMS) system used by the Department of Social Protection was instrumental in detecting the fraud.

"Eduard Preda" was invited to have a photograph taken of himself in 2015 under department guidelines and "Adrian Vaduva" was invited last summer.

Breda Murphy of the department's staff in Wexford alerted Garda Kevin Heffernan to the case last June after the software matched the two photos and showed that both Vaduva and Preda were in fact the same man.

Garda Heffernan, on secondment to the Department of Social Protection, told the court it was evident "Eduard Preda" and "Adrian Vaduva" were the same person.

Vaduva was arrested in Arklow last summer and admitted the fraud, including renting a flat in Wexford which was supposed to be the address for "Eduard Preda".

He was paying €400 a month in rent but receiving almost €1,000 in payments and Garda Heffernan described it as an elaborate scheme.

Vaduva co-operated fully with the investigation and gardaí say it would have been difficult to prove the case back to 1999 if he had not been so upfront.

The court was told Vaduva had not accumulated any of the money but was using it to live on. He also paid money for his sick mother and he had three children in Romania, one of whom is seriously ill.

He only had €20 on him when arrested and had no money in his bank accounts.

Vaduva cried throughout the court hearing and the court heard he sobbed throughout his interviews with gardaí.

Describing him as an emotional man, Judge Barry Hickson said the new CFIMS software had been instrumental in this case.

The judge said the social welfare system has been deprived of almost €300,000.

He sentenced Vaduva to three years in jail and suspended the last nine months, backdating the sentence to last June when he was first arrested.