'Devout Christian' lawyer is jailed over €2.8m theft
A STRUCK-off solicitor and "devout Christian" has been jailed for three years for stealing €2.8m from former client accounts to fund investment properties and buy on the stock market.
Judge Mary Ellen Ring said that Ruairi O'Ceallaigh (42) used to the money for the "ultimate in gambling" and had then "gambled on the gamble".
O'Ceallaigh told gardai he took the money from the accounts with the intention of paying it back. He had used it to buy shares, including contracts for difference, in an attempt to "claw back" some losses made elsewhere.
"I was under the false belief I could make the money back on the stock market and make right the wrong that I had done," he told investigators.
O'Ceallaigh of Collegeland, Summerhill, Co Meath, pleaded guilty to seven counts of dishonestly appropriating a total of €2,816,566, the property of Sean O'Ceallaigh and Company, and having designated these sums as credited to seven named clients' accounts on dates between July 2006 and May 2010.
Judge Ring said O'Ceallaigh had committed the most fundamental breach of trust as a solicitor. She said that had he been convicted at trial, a sentence of eight years would not have been excessive.
She accepted that O'Ceallaigh's brother and father had no knowledge of his offending.
The judge said it was to O'Ceallaigh's credit that he had entered early guilty pleas and co-operated with gardai.
She imposed a five-year sentence backdated to earlier this month, and suspended the final two years.