Gambling addict who stole from 'angel' pair avoids jail
A GAMBLING addict has avoided a jail term for conning a couple by convincing them that racehorse owner JP McManus would finance their "angel sanctuary" business.
Andrew Duff told the couple he was a high-profile businessman with "serious connections" to JP McManus, Denis O'Brien and the directors of Setanta. He later stole €17,000 from them.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that Lorraine Coffey and Eugene O'Connor wanted help in expanding their business from a shop in France, where they now live.
The company, Lorries Angels, sells spiritual items around the idea of angels.
Duff (46), of Kilpatrick, Kyle, Co Wexford, pleaded guilty to theft from the couple at AIB Dun Laoghaire on February 16, 2011.
Judge Mary Ellen Ring described it as "a particularly nasty crime because of the breaches of trust involved" and sentenced Duff to three years in prison.
But the sentence was suspended in full on strict conditions, including that he hand over €5,500, which he had in court as a token of his remorse, to the couple.
Gda Donal O'Sullivan told the court the couple planned to run the company on a not-for-profit basis and agreed to take Duff on as an unpaid financial adviser for a year.
The garda said the accused claimed he sent a business plan to Mr McManus. He also claimed to have set up a meeting between the couple and the millionaire, which was later cancelled.
The court was told that Mr McManus later told gardai that he didn't know Mr Duff and had never sent him an email to cancel the meeting.
Duff also told the couple they would have to transfer €15,000 to his account, which they did in February 2011.
He told them they had to register an employee in Ireland. He later billed them for €2,593 which he said had to be paid in employer's contribution taxes.
When this employee looked for his P45 from the Revenue Commissioners, it emerged that Duff had not paid these taxes and the gardai were called in.
Duff was in the middle of a gambling addiction course when gardai arrested him. Gardai found that the €15,000 had been gradually spent over 34 transactions with Paddy Power bookmakers' online betting site.
Orla Crowe, defending, said her client felt profound remorse and shame over his actions and wanted to apologise.