Five years for 'gardai' who stole €27,000 from pensioner
TWO men who impersonated gardai in "a nasty" bid to cheat a pensioner of his life savings were jailed for five years yesterday.
A Circuit Criminal Court judge in Cork yesterday warned Thomas O'Brien (20) and James Dooley (21) that their behaviour was "quite extraordinary" after hearing how they posed as gardai and persuaded the 80-year-old man that his life savings were far safer in a fictitious garda account.
Over a period of time they persuaded the man to remove €27,000 from his Cork credit union accounts and hand it over to them for safe-keeping.
O'Brien, of Cullina, Beaufort, Co Kerry, and Dooley, of Ballyspillane, Killarney, Co Kerry, pleaded guilty before Judge Patrick Moran to deception and to impersonating a garda.
The offences related to an eight-day period in April 2009 when they repeatedly called to the pensioner's Cork home to accept cash amounts for lodgment to the fictitious garda bank account.
The duo also admitted a second count of deception involving a 61-year-old man whom they persuaded to give them €6,000 after posing as home insulation contractors.
The judge was told that, having got the €6,000 in cash, they immediately went to the Netherlands and spent the entire sum on drugs and parties.
The court was told that the duo specialised in targeting elderly people and only plied their 'trade' in counties some distance from their Kerry base.
The pair approached the 80-year-old man having earlier contacted him by phone and convinced him they were acting on the instructions of a garda superintendent. The bogus gardai then warned the pensioner that his savings were not secure in his local credit union and were vulnerable to criminals, so the funds should be transferred to a special garda savings account for elderly people.
Between April 2 and 9, the pair collected €27,000 from him which he withdrew in amounts varying from €2,000 to €11,000 from two different credit unions.
The total amount was the man's entire life savings and the judge was told the alarm was only raised when a home help became concerned after hearing the man describe the special garda savings account.
Gardai were notified and genuine officers watched the pensioner until a white van called to where he lived on April 9.
The confused pensioner told the genuine gardai that the men in the van were special detectives at which point the van left the scene at high speed.
O'Brien was arrested a short time later and lodgment slips were discovered in the van in the name of Dooley.
Several bank accounts were frozen by gardai and the pensioner ultimately recouped a total of €11,000.
In relation to the separate €6,000 home-insulation scam, the judge was told that O'Brien and Dooley admitted spending the entire amount socialising in the Netherlands.
Defence counsels acknowledged that O'Brien and Dooley appreciated the offences were "dreadful, serious incidents".
The judge said: "This is very nasty behaviour. You had no appreciation or respect for them at all." He jailed both defendants for five years.