Courts

Tuesday 29 July 2014

'Devout Christian' solicitor who stole €2.8m from clients for share deals

Declan Brennan and Dearbhail McDonald

Published 03/07/2014|02:30

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Ruairi O Ceallaigh Photo: Courtpix
Ruairi O Ceallaigh Photo: Courtpix

A FORMER solicitor, described as a "devout Christian", stole €2.8m from client accounts in his family's prestigious law firm and used the money to fund investment properties and buy stocks and shares.

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Judge Mary Ellen Ring, who has deferred sentencing until later this month, due to a large number of character statements submitted in favour of Ruairi O Ceallaigh.

The judge said that the 42-year-old charity worker had used the money for the "ultimate in gambling" and had "gambled on the gamble".

Detective Sergeant Paschal Walsh told Dublin's Circuit Criminal Court that one theft involved €1,551,366 from a client who had left his estate to the Archdiocese of Dublin.

O Ceallaigh, who was struck off the solicitors roll last January, used this to invest in property, pay for renovations and stamp duties and to clear a mortgage on another property.

Judge Ring heard O Ceallaigh has made a personal apology to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin in 2010 and has repaid some €38,000 to the Archdiocese.

O Ceallaigh (42), 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. He 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" 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.

Judge Ring remanded O Ceallaigh in custody for sentence later this month so that she can consider a large number of character references, more than 20 handed into the court.

Det Sgt Walsh said the individual sums of cash misappropriated range from €75,000 to €1.55m. The Law Society has paid out compensation to six of the victims but did not cover the loss of €750,000 to the Dublin Archdiocese because the compensation fund pays out to a maximum of €700,000.

Since the thefts came to light, O Ceallaigh has paid €71,000 over to The Law Society and to the Dublin Archdiocese.

The net total loss is just over €2,325,000.

Padraig Dwyer SC, defending, said his client was a "man of contradictions" as he has spent much of his life devoting energy and legal services to advancing the cause of people who have nothing.

He said O Ceallaigh, who is "deeply ashamed and filled with remorse", has volunteered overseas with a number of charities working in developing countries and has donated to and volunteered for a wide variety of charities. Det Sgt Walsh agreed that O Ceallaigh was "driven by Christian values" and was remorseful. The judge will sentence O Ceallaigh on July 18.

Irish Independent

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