Friday 15 December 2017

Family claims woman duped priest out of €130,000

Aodhan O'Faolain

A PRIEST was "preyed on" by a woman who befriended him and then fraudulently misappropriated more than €130,000 of his money, his family claims.

Relatives of Fr Vincent Kelly (86) have brought a High Court action against Mary McLoughlin because they say the priest has suffered great financial loss due to her "deception, fraud, deceit and theft".

The court heard that Fr Kelly is a former parish priest in Palmerstown, Dublin, who retired to his native Co Mayo in 2001.

He was active in his community and carried out relief work. In recent times, he developed health problems and his memory began to fade.

Over recent months, Fr Kelly was hospitalised, and afterwards he lived with his sister.

But after the family conducted inquiries into Fr Kelly's affairs, a number of matters came to light which shocked and upset his relatives, the court was told.

It is claimed that large amounts of money were taken from bank accounts and that withdrawals were made from an ATM in Westport when Fr Kelly was not in the town.

The family claim Ms McLoughlin had been given joint control over bank accounts Fr Kelly had at AIB.

The court action was brought by Fr Kelly's sister, Ann Geary of Pontoon, Foxford, Co Mayo, who now has power of attorney over his affairs.

In an affidavit, Ms Geary said she first became aware of Ms McLoughlin's existence in late 2011, when her brother told her that a friend was going to move into his house in Westport to keep him company, and act as his housekeeper and secretary.

He did not tell Ms Geary who this was, but said that he had given this person money because the person was at risk of losing their house to the bank.

Ms Geary said she became suspicious about this virtual stranger.

After making enquires, she was informed that the person was Ms McLoughlin, a single woman in her 50s or 60s who worked as a senior social welfare officer based in Westport.

She said that Fr Kelly's family were unhappy about her relationship with Fr Kelly.

It was claimed that Ms McLoughlin had been given joint control over bank accounts Fr Kelly had at AIB. Ms Geary said when asked, Fr Kelly had no recollection of giving such powers to Ms McLoughlin.

Ms Geary said that Fr Kelly told them he only had accounts with An Post and AIB. However, 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.

The current balance of that account was 'nil'.

They also learnt from the bank that Ms McLoughlin had been given full signing authority by Fr Kelly, she said.

The family claim some of the cash that came into the account came from two Post Office Saving Certificate cheques made out to Fr Kelly, worth more than €50,000.

In addition, money from the Ulster Bank account was transferred to Ms McLoughlin's nephew Thomas and niece Tara.

On several dates in May and June 2012, cash withdrawals from Fr Kelly's AIB account were made from an ATM at a petrol station in Westport.

The court was told that on one of those dates Fr Kelly, who did not usually require such large amounts of cash, was in Pontoon and did not have access to the ATM in Westport.

Orders

Ms Geary also claims that Ms McLoughlin recently had improvements carried out at her home.

Mr Justice Roderick yesterday made a number of orders, including one prohibiting Ms McLoughlin, of Corraugan, Kilmeena, Westport, Co Mayo, from reducing her assets below €51,713.06.

Freezing orders were also obtained against Ms McLoughlin's nephew, Thomas McLoughlin, who cannot reduce his assets below €39,000 and her niece Tara McLoughlin who cannot reduce her assets below €25,000.

The orders were made on an ex-parte (one side only) basis. The matter was made returnable to a date later this month.

Irish Independent

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