Ex-solicitor gets two years in jail over €275k fraud
A former solicitor has been jailed for two years after being convicted of fraud involving €275,000.
Mark Cronin (40) was given a four-year sentence, with two years suspended, after he pleaded guilty before Cork Circuit Criminal Court to a total of eight charges relating to theft of funds belonging to clients and forgery of documents.
Cronin of New Street, Macroom, Co Cork admitted the offences after a garda investigation following a complaint from a client found that he had used some of the funds for personal pub investments.
Judge Sean O'Donnabhain was told the offences all occurred between July 1, 2009, and December 15, 2013.
Det Garda Tom O'Sullivan explained that the thefts emerged when a client lodged a formal complaint over their dealings with Cronin. The couple, who were making a house purchase, had given the solicitor two cheques totalling €70,000. They also handed over a bank draft for €100,000.
But the couple were alarmed when they were later informed that the funds had not been passed on to the solicitor representing the person selling the property.
A second complaint was received by gardaí involving similar issues. The defendant told gardaí that he was involved in three pubs, one in Macroom and two in Cork city, and was trying to keep them financially viable.
He became so desperate that he began to use clients' money for the businesses, using it to pay brewery bills and staff salaries.
"He said that the money seemed to be going into a black hole," Det Garda O'Sullivan said.
The court heard all four of Cronin's clients had been repaid from special bond schemes operated by the Law Society.
Judge O'Donnabhain said Cronin's behaviour was "outrageous" and he said the four clients had been reimbursed by his profession and, ultimately, by the Irish people rather than through any efforts of the defendant.
Judge O'Donnabhain said the deception had continued for far too long for the court to ever consider a non-custodial sentence. He sentenced him to four years with the final two suspended.