News Courts

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Female private investigators accused of 'blagging' personal data for credit unions

Published 04/09/2014 | 13:24

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M.C.K. Directors  Margaret Stuart and Wendy Martin  pictured outside Bray Court house .
Pic Frank Mc Grath
See Story Mark O Regan.
4/9/14
Margaret Stuart and Wendy Martin pictured outside Bray Court house Credit: Frank Mc Grath
M.C.K.  Rental Ltd Directors  Margaret Stuart and Wendy Martin  pictured outside Bray Court house .
Pic Frank Mc Grath
See Story Mark O Regan.
4/9/14
Margaret Stuart and Wendy Martin pictured outside Bray Court house Credit: Frank Mc Grath

TWO female private investigators "blagged" highly sensitive information from State bodies and passed it on to credit unions, a court heard.

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Criminal prosecutions begun this morning against private investigators accused of stealing personal data from the Department of Social Protection to help the credit unions track down customers.

M.C.K. Directors  Wendy Martin and Margaret Stuart pictured outside Bray Court house .
Pic Frank Mc Grath
See Story Mark O Regan.
4/9/14
Wendy Martin and Margaret Stuart pictured outside Bray Court house Credit: Frank McGrath

These customers had either ignored or missed communications about overdue loan repayments.

The trial follows a lengthy probe by the Data Protection Commissioner into the activities of investigators hired by at least a dozen credit unions.

Among the credit unions involved are Portlaoise, Portarlington and Athy.

Tony Delaney, Assistant Data Protection Commissioner, told Bray District Court that the private investigators company M.C.K. Rentals Limited, and its directors, Margaret Stuart and Wendy Martin face 23 charges.

He said credit unions had hired the company to "trace people" and alleged the information was obtained through "unlawful means."

"They contacted the Department of Social Protection by telephone, misrepresenting who they were," he claimed.

They were "blagging" the person on the other end of the telephone in order to obtain information, he said.

"Other charges relate to obtaining information from the Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) which is the section of the Health Service Executive (HSE), that handles medical cards and that sort of thing."

By misrepresenting who they were, they were able to acquire "addresses" and then "pass that information back on to credit unions," he said..

It is alleged the company, and the defendants, are in breach of the Data Protection legislation.

This could carry a potential fine of up to €3,000 on conviction in the District Court.

Margaret Stuart from Newtownmountkennedy, Co Wicklow and co-accused Wendy Martin from Ballybrack, Co Dublin, did not give evidence during the hearing.

Mr Justice William Early adjourned the case until October 6.

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