Tuesday 20 February 2018

Court unfreezes assets of relatives of woman accused of €130,000 priest fraud

Aodhan O'Faolain

TWO relatives of a Co Mayo woman alleged to have fraudulently misappropriated €130,000 from a retired priest are no longer subject to High Court freezing orders of their assets, a judge ruled today.

Fr Vincent Kelly’s relatives have brought an action against Mary McLoughlin alleging that the 86-year-old priest had suffered great financial loss and damage due to her “deception, fraud, deceit and theft”. Ms McLoughlin had “preyed upon” Fr Kelly, they allege.

Earlier this month, Mr Justice Roderick Murphy agreed to make a number of orders on an ex parte (one side only represented) basis, including an order prohibiting Ms McLoughlin, Corraugan, Kilmeena, Westport, Co Mayo, from reducing her assets below €51,713.06.

Freezing orders were also obtained ex parte against Ms McLoughlin’s nephew, Thomas McLoughlin, restraining him from dissipating his assets below €39,000 and against her niece, Tara McLoughlin, restraining reduction of her assets below €25,000.

The application against the McLoughlins was brought by Fr Kelly's sister Ann Geary.

Today, when the matter was briefly mentioned before the court, Peadar Ó Maolain BL for Ms Geary told Mr Justice Murphy "significant progress has been made in the action".

Counsel said that on consent the freezing orders obtained against Thomas and Tara McLoughlin could be struck out.

However, the freezing order against Ms Mary McLoughlin is to remain in place. No further details concerning the action were disclosed to the court.

The matter is expected to return before the court sometime later this month.

In an affidavit, Mrs Geary of Pontoon, Foxford, Co Mayo, who has power of attorney over Fr Kelly's affairs said she became suspicious about the nature of Mary McLoughlin's relationship with her brother. Mrs Geary said that Ms McLoughlin, who befriended the cleric in 2011, works as a senior social welfare officer based in Westport.

Earlier this month, the family the sought freezing orders after a number of matters had come to light that shocked and upset the family.

These included concerns that Ms McLoughlin had been given joint control over bank accounts Fr Kelly had at AIB. Mrs Geary said she had asked Fr Kelly about this and he had no recollection of giving such powers to Ms McLoughlin.

Mrs Geary said Fr Kelly told the family he had accounts only with An Post and AIB but they discovered an account with Ulster Bank in his name.

When the family spoke to Ulster Bank, they discovered that, between April and June of this year, €123,000 of Fr Kelly’s money was lodged and removed or transferred by Ms McLoughlin. It was alleged that some of the money in that account was transferred to Ms McLoughlin's niece and nephew Thomas McLoughlin and Tara McLoughlin.

Fr Kelly, a former parish priest in Palmerstown, Dublin, had retired to his native Co Mayo in 2001. He was active in his community and carried out relief work but, in recent times, his memory began to fade.

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