Garda found guilty of insurance fraud
A garda has been convicted of insurance fraud after he lied to his broker and told them his car had been stolen when it had in fact been involved in a crash.
However, the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court jury acquitted Garda Paul Fogarty (27) on charges of harassing a garage owner and his father after a dispute arose over the crash repairs that had been carried out on the officer’s Toyota Celica.
Fogarty, who is based at Dundrum Garda Station, had pleaded not guilty to dishonestly by deception inducing Quinn Direct to pay out an insurance claim of €10,254 at Littlepace, Clonee, Co Meath.
He had also pleaded not guilty to harassing Christopher Kelly and his father, Patrick, on dates between November 1, 2008 and May 31, 2009.
The jury returned its verdict on day five of the trial after just over three hours deliberation. Judge Sarah Berkeley remanded Fogarty on continuing bail until next July for sentencing.
Fogarty cried when the not guilty verdicts were returned 30 minutes before the jury came back with the guilty verdict.
The court heard that Fogarty had bought a Toyota Celica for €19,000 in May 2007 and taxed it for third party fire and theft with Quinn Direct. He crashed the car in a single vehicle collision in January 2008 on the M50.
He later brought it to Mr Kelly’s garage in Trim, County Meath to carry out repairs on the car and paid €5,000 in advance for the work.
During the trial Christopher Kelly told the jury that he met with Fogarty in April 2009 after he had been working on the repairs to the car for a number of months.
He said he met the accused in Ballymun and Fogarty told him he had been trying to sell the car but couldn’t get the price he wanted for it because of the level of repair that had been done to it.
“I understand that he wanted to sell the car to pay back debts,” Mr Kelly said before he added that there was a discussion that he would take the car so Fogarty could make a claim on.
Mr Kelly said that he took the car from outside Fogarty’s grandparents’ house following the meeting.
Patricia Treacy, a former employee of Quinn Direct, told the trial that she met with Fogarty in April 2009 after he made an insurance claim for the Celica.
She said Fogarty told her that the car had been stolen from outside his grandmother’s house. He said the Celica had never been involved in a crash and was in good condition.
Ms Treacy said that she initially got a pre-accident value for the Celica of €8,240 but Fogarty was not happy with it. He said his car had been a higher spec and model to the Celicas that the insurance company had compared it to.
She said the accused was happy with the revised figure of €10,254.15, he signed an acceptance form and the cheque was issued on April 15, 2009
Mr Kelly told Melanie Greally BL, prosecuting, during the trial that he returned the vehicle to Fogarty in November 2008 and he was not happy with the state of repair, particularly a bumper that had been fitted to it.
He said he then received approximately 600 text messages from Fogarty over a number of months. He described the messages as offensive and threatening and said the garda told him at one stage he would break his legs and kick his parent’s door in.
Mr Kelly claimed that the accused told him he came from “a hardened family” and implied he didn’t know who he was messing with.
He told the jury that he was then forced to recruit a person to steal a Celica of a similar model and spec to Fogarty’s car so that he could use those body parts and fit them to the accused’s vehicle.
The witness agreed with Breffni Gordon BL, defending, that he has served a jail term for handling and possessing stolen vehicles after his garage was raided by gardaí in April 2009.
Mr Kelly refused to accept a suggestion from counsel that he reported the alleged harassment to gardaí as “leverage” when he was caught with the stolen cars.
The jury also heard from Leonard Clarke, who worked for a short time with Mr Kelly. He described his employer as a “sleibhin” and said he was “a thief at the end of the day”.
Mr Clarke said he retuned the Celica to Mr Fogarty on December 23, 2008 and confirmed that the garda was not happy with the condition of the car.
“I cannot blame him to be honest,” Mr Clarke told the jury.
He said the accused showed him his handcuffs and badge and told him he was a garda.
He said he agreed to bring the accused to Mr Kelly’s home and offered to lend him his own car until the Celica was fixed to his satisfaction.
Mr Clarke said he did this “out of fear” because Mr Fogarty had threatened to charge him with stealing a car and put him in prison over Christmas.
He said Mr Fogarty had his car then until March 28 after he had given it to the garda first on Christmas Eve.
Mr Clarke agreed with Mr Gordon that the Celica was “in a disgraceful condition”.
“If it had been handed back to me in that condition, I would have gone mental,” Mr Clarke told counsel.
Patrick Kelly told the jury he helped finance his son’s business but said he lived in Limerick.
He said the man threatened him over a number of phone calls and at one point told him he knew the right people in Limerick who could arrange for Christopher’s legs to be broken.
Mr Kelly said he first received a phone call from Mr Fogarty in September or October 2008 during which he said the accused put him under pressure to get the Celica back to him and reminded him he was a car.
He said as time progressed the calls he received included comments such as “you would want to look out for yourself”.
“He reminded me that if had a wife and daughters and I wanted to think about the them. He said the gardaí in Limerick could make my life difficult,” Mr Kelly said.
Mr Kelly said the accused also told him during one phone call that there would be “a knock on my door” and that he knew people in Limerick that he, Mr Fogarty, “could cut a deal with”.
He said the accused also said he could have his son’s legs broken and that he knew the right people to do it.
“It made very uncomfortable and nervous. I was afraid I would be stopped by the gardaí in Limerick or anyone else I may come in contact with,” Mr Kelly told Ms Greally.