By Sonya McClean
A man who was involved in a scam that conned a vulnerable woman out of her life-savings will be sentenced next week.
Michael O’Brien’s victim was left with €93 in her bank account after handing over €90,000 to the man.
O’Brien (24), of Old Castle Drive, Clondalkin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to four sample charges of deception on dates between October 2015 and November 2015. He has no previous convictions.
Garda Dermot English told Derek Cooney BL, prosecuting that the woman, who was being treated as an outpatient in the psychiatric ward in St James’s Hospital, was also acting as a carer for her 95-year-old mother.
Garda English said the woman was very distressed when she reported the incident to gardai in December 2015. She said one day a man called to her home and said she needed to have her driveway re-paved or the postman would trip and sue her. She agreed to the work and paid €7,500 for it.
She said the same man then suggested he paint her house after telling her that it was “going to fall down.... I’ll sort it for you”. She paid €1,500 for this, but the work was never completed.
Garda English said some time later the woman receieved a call from a person purporting to be an accountant with a bank.
He told her he had heard that she had been scammed by a group of travellers and he could help her get her money back.
The caller told the woman if she paid him in instalments of €5,000 he would get her “a big cheque for €76,000”.
The woman agreed to this and met O’Brien in numerous different locations including the carpark of St James’s Hospital where she was being treated. She regularly withdrew €5,000 from two seperate bank accounts and handed it over until she was left with just €93.
Garda English said when the woman went to gardai she told them she was due to meet the same man the following day in the carpark of St James’s Hospital to hand over a further €5,000.
Gardaí set up an operation and moved in to arrest O’Brien when they spotted him meeting with the woman.
O’Brien claimed on his arrest that he was working for someone else and that he only got €600 after agreeing to collect over €80,000 from the woman over a number of different meetings.
Garda English told Judge Melanie Greally that gardaí were not investigating anyone else. He said O’Brien would not provide him with any information about the other people involved in the scheme.
He added that the victim said she only ever met O’Brien and didn’t know of others involved. In interview O’Brien claimed that he was working for “a bossman” but agreed that he had paved the woman’s driveway and she had been overcharged by at least €5,000.
O’Brien said he owed €4,000 to “the bossman” and he agreed to regularly meet the woman to collect cash in an effort to pay back this debt.
Mr Cooney told Judge Greally that the pleas were accepted on the basis that they were representative of ten counts.
Keith Spencer BL, defending said the Director of Public Prosecutions accepted his client’s pleas of guilty on the basis that his culpability was limited to €20,000.
Judge Greally said she had difficulty accepting that O’Brien wasn’t the ultimate beneficiary of the €90,000 that the woman was conned out of but said she would sentence him on the basis that the DPP accept that his responsibility was €20,000.
Mr Spencer said his client’s role was to collect the money from the woman and hand it over to someone else. He said O’Brien’s wife had sold her car and his family had given him money to raise €20,000 for the victim.
O’Brien has not been in receipt of social welfare for a number of years and he earns a living through doing “odd jobs”, counsel told Judge Greally.
The judge remanded O’Brien on continuing bail and adjourned the case to March 24 for sentence.
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