Sunday 28 May 2017

Pensioner loses €60,000 savings in nursing home worker's scam

Judge: deception was 'appalling act'

Kathryn Hayes

A 70-year-old widow had her entire savings wiped out by a former nursing home carer who persuaded her to invest €60,000 in a start-up company.

Michael Harrington, of Cronan Lawn, Shannon, Co Clare, was jailed for eight months at Limerick District Court yesterday after he pleaded guilty to two separate charges of deception.

Before imposing the jail term Judge Tom O'Donnell said it was the most "appalling case of deception" he has come across in all his years on the bench.

The 25-year-old admitted inducing sums of money totalling €6,200 from Teresa Gribbins who lives at Sancta Maria Nursing Home, Cratloe, Co Clare, on two separate dates in 2008 and 2009.

Harrington pleaded guilty to deceiving Mrs Gribbins out of €5,000 at Sarsfield Street in Limerick on March 23, 2009, and €1,200 at Punches Hotel, Limerick, on May 30, 2008.

Detective Garda Stephen Ryan from Shannon garda station told the court that Harrington befriended Mrs Gribbins, who has no immediate family, while he was working at the nursing home, which he left in 2007.

Det Gda Ryan said the 25-year-old stayed in contact with the pensioner after he finished working at the nursing home and that Mrs Gribbins had in good faith offered substantial sums to invest in Harrington's medical supply company after he told her the banks refused to give him a loan.

The court heard the pensioner, who is originally from Moyross in Limerick city, had received a payout several years ago of €60,000 from the Residential Institutions Redress Board, which was set up to compensate people abused in state care.

The 70-year-old continued to invest in Harrington's company after he told her that he needed funds to secure 17 new contracts and if he secured these contracts he would be able to return her investments, the court heard.

Return

Mrs Gribbins, who invested more than €60,000 in the company, was offered a 10pc return plus €2,000 per annum on top of this.

Det Garda Ryan told the court there were no accountant or contracts and said Harrington had used the injured party's money to fund his lifestyle.

He said Harrington had provided Mrs Gribbins with false and misleading information about his company.

The pensioner, who had lost her husband and her daughter before she went into the nursing home, had no immediate family and no way of checking out the information she had been given, he said.

The court heard the matter finally came to a head when two of Mrs Gribbins' direct debits for her nursing home care hadn't been paid and the manager of the home contacted the gardai on her behalf.

In her direct evidence to the court Mrs Gribbins told the court she was left with nothing.

"I trusted him. He gained my confidence. I gave him all my money but nothing came back," she explained.

Harrington's solicitor said her client apologised for what he had done and said he was extremely embarrassed about his behaviour.

He accepted he took advantage of Mrs Gribbins, and he planned to repay the money he took from her, she said.

Before imposing sentence, Judge Tom O'Donnell said the accused man had taken advantage of a vulnerable person whose trust he had shattered.

He said Mrs Gribbins was at the behest of the HSE after being "effectively wiped out by Mr Harringinton".

Judge O'Donnell said he would be singularly failing in his duty if he did not impose a custodial sentence. "It is an appalling case," he said.

Irish Independent

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