Saturday 24 August 2019

Brothers who stole more than €200,000 from vulnerable elderly woman by carrying out bogus repair works face sentence

Thomas Coen outside of court
Photo: Hany Marzouk
Thomas Coen outside of court Photo: Hany Marzouk
Michael Coen outside of court Photo: Hany Marzouk

Ann Healy

TWO brothers face sentence later this month for stealing over €205,000 from a vulnerable old age pensioner by carrying out bogus repairs to her home over a two-year period.

Thomas Coen (46), with addresses at Corrib Park, Newcastle, Galway and Old Monivea Road, Ballybrit, Galway, along with his younger brother, Micheal Coen (38), Corrib Park, Newcastle, Galway, were both arrested and charged in 2017 with 61 counts of theft involving large sums of cash taken from the woman between June 2014 and November 2015.

Prosecuting barrister, Conor Fahy BL, told their sentence hearing before Galway Circuit Criminal Court on Wednesday that Thomas Coen pleaded guilty in June last year to the first thirty charges on dates between June 17 and August 30, 2014.

His younger brother pleaded guilty to eight of the remaining 31 charges involving the theft of cash from the woman at her home on dates between September, 2014 and November, 2015.

Michael Coen outside of court
Photo: Hany Marzouk
Michael Coen outside of court Photo: Hany Marzouk

Both accepted over €200,000 had been stolen but said they had taken just €80,000 for themselves and that other people were behind the scam as well.

Garda David Foley, prosecuting, said Thomas Coen operated a home and garden maintenance company which he still runs, carrying out tree-topping, power-washing and general maintenance for homeowners.

He said Coen knocked on the then 77-year-old, reclusive woman’s door in 2013 and offered to do work around her house.

She declined, but he called back a year later and she accepted his help then. He started calling to her home regularly between June and November 2015, initially charging her €200 to €300, but as time went by, the price rose considerably into the thousands, Garda Foley said.

He employed his younger brother, Michael, and others to carry out work and both brothers would call on an almost daily basis, collecting payments from the woman.

Gardai were alerted in November 2015, that “vast sums of money” were leaving the woman’s bank account and going to the brothers.

With her permission, they examined her bank accounts and tallied the amounts withdrawn with amounts the woman had recorded in an accounting journal, each time the brother’s were paid.

The court heard there had been 61 transactions between June 14 and November 15, amounting to €205,230.

Garda Foley got a quantity surveyor to assess the work the brother’s had carried out at the woman’s property and he valued it at €10,063.

The brothers were arrested and questioned. They admitted carrying out the work and that they had overcharged her on every occasion, claiming they had received just €80,000 of the money.

Garda Foley said Gardai knew other people were involved in the deception. They had been arrested and questioned but there were no directions received to prosecute them.

“The Coen’s remained at the front of the operation and other people stayed in the background and they took the money. They were never ‘face to face’ with the injured party,” Garda Foley said.

He described the woman as a “very vulnerable, reclusive lady”.

He said Thomas Coen had numerous previous convictions for theft and deception, including two similar offences in 2011 and again in 2015, for the theft of cash from two other elderly victims.

Michael Coen, he said, had 61 previous convictions, 54 of which were for motoring offences and others for drug dealing.

He also had four previous for forgery and handling stolen goods in 2001.

Mr Fahy said the victim was in frail health and he would need time to obtain a victim impact statement from her.

Judge Rory McCabe agreed to adjourn finalisation of sentence to July 23.

Mr Paul Flannery SC, who represented Thomas Coen, said his client had brought €4,500 to court for the victim. His brother, who had recently discharged his legal team, brought €1,050.

Mr Flannery said his client would have more money in court in July.

“It it’s the case that more money is to be obtained by any means, should I say ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’, then  I will put it back,” Judge McCabe said.

Garda Foley confirmed Gardai had both men’s passports.

“If they do not show up they will be pursued and will serve a sentence, whatever they receive,” the judge warned, before adjourning finalisation of sentence to July.

“I presume they will be working hard between now and then,” the judge added as he watched Michael Coen’s newly-appointed solicitor, Sean Acton, hand in his client’s €1,050 to the court.

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