Saturday 29 October 2016

Man stole nearly €10,000 from 74-year-old friend’s life savings

By Conor Gallagher

Published 05/05/2015 | 15:41

A man who stole nearly €10,000 from his 74-year-old friend’s life savings while the elderly man was in hospital has been jailed for 18 months.

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John McDonald (57) will spend a further 18 months in jail if he can’t come up with €12,000 compensation for his victim within a month.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard McDonald befriended the now 80-year-old Matthew Murphy and helped him do his shopping. When Mr Murphy went into hospital McDonald used his ATM card to make 29 withdrawals totalling €9,843.

After his discharge from hospital the victim found his savings account contained only €15.

McDonald was arrested in 2011 but fled while on bail to Northern Ireland after telling the court he needed time to raise money to pay Mr Murphy back. He remained in Belfast until earlier this year when he was arrested at his Dublin home.

McDonald of North Circular Road, Dublin 7 pleaded guilty to nine sample counts of theft from Mr Murphy between December 2009 and February 2010 during various transactions around Dublin.

Judge Martin Nolan called it “a low crime” and said McDonald “behaved in a very devious and tricky fashion over the years.”

He imposed a three year sentence with the final 18 months suspended on condition that McDonald pays €12,000 to Mr Murphy within one month.

Prosecuting counsel Cathleen Noctor BL presented evidence that the victim met Mr McDonald at a senior citizen’s event and they got to know each other. She said McDonald would help Mr Murphy with his errands and they would go for a pint together.

In December 2009 Mr Murphy became unwell and was unable to leave his flat. He needed to pay his rent and gave McDonald his ATM card and pin to take out money.

Mr Murphy’s condition worsened and he was forced to go into hospital McDonald didn’t return the card and would “fob off” the victim every time he asked for it. When Mr Murphy was released from hospital he found that his account had been nearly completely emptied and went to gardaí.

McDonald was arrested and claimed Mr Murphy had agreed to lend him money because his family was in financial trouble. He claimed Mr Murphy had signed a written agreement to this effect but that he might not remember it because his mental health was poor at time.

McDonald pleaded guilty in 2012 and asked for the case to be adjourned so he could repay the victim. He claimed he had just inherited €20,000 from his mother and that he needed time for the cheque to clear. He then fled to Northern Ireland until 2015.

He has 15 previous convictions, mostly for forgery and larceny offences dating back to before 1997.

Defence counsel Dean Kelly BL said his client was married but the relationship broke down due to his drinking. He said he also had significant addiction to prescription medications.

Counsel said it was an opportunistic crime and “an offence of squalid dishonesty.” He asked Judge Nolan to adjourn sentencing to allow McDonald another chance to gather compensation while he remained in custody.

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