Tuesday 10 December 2019

Fraudster also took €30,000 from Cullen hotel, court told

Anne Lucey and Grainne Cunningham

A FEMALE Mr Ripley-type fraudster, who repeatedly swindled boyfriends out of large sums of money, also misappropriated over €30,000 from a hotel owned by 'Apprentice' star Bill Cullen and his partner Jackie Lavin, a court heard yesterday.

The 31-year-old fraudster, who goes alternatively by the names Diane Connelly and Diane McDonald, was sentenced on Monday to three years in jail for swindling €26,800 from her Donegal fiance.

Yesterday, a decree for €30,520 was made against the same woman, in relation to monies she illegally transferred from the five-star Muckross Park Hotel, Killarney.

Denis Horgan, counsel for the hotel, told Killarney Circuit Court how Diane McDonald, of no given address, had taken up work at the hotel on April 18, 2006. A day later she used the hotel's digital credit card refund system to transfer €10,000 into a Killarney bank account in the name of a then Killarney boyfriend.

Three other sums -- two amounts of €10,000 each and one of €520 -- amounting to a total of €30,520 were removed from the hotel by Ms McDonald, Det Garda Bill Stack told the court. The garda said that she had accepted she had removed the sums in an interview with gardai.

The money was used to buy a car for €23,000, Mr Horgan said. A previous application to the court had resulted in the car being sold for €21,000.

Solicitor Padraig O'Connell, who had acted for Ms McDonald's Killarney boyfriend, told the court the man had suffered "extreme loss" as a result of his relationship with Ms McDonald. Money had been taken from his accounts and their relationship was over, Mr O'Connell said.


Judge Carroll Moran made an order against Diane McDonald for €30,520 plus costs -- to include the money from the sale of the car which is to be released to the hotel.

Last July at the Circuit Criminal Court in Tralee, Diane McDonald, with an address at Clash, Lisivigeen, Killarney, was handed down a two-year sentence after she had earlier pleaded guilty to seven charges of theft and fraud in relation to her employment at the Muckross Park Hotel.

On Monday, a Donegal court heard how a Ms Connelly, who gardai confirmed is the same person, swindled her lover out of €26,800. She was jailed for three years for those offences.

Irish Independent

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