Garda guilty of insurance fraud but is cleared of harassing garage owner
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 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 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 insured it for third-party fire and theft with Quinn Direct. He crashed the car in January 2008 on the M50.
He later brought it to Mr Kelly's garage in Trim, Co Meath, to carry out repairs on the car and paid €5,000 in advance for the work.
Mr 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.
"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.
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.
She said Fogarty told her that the car had been stolen. He said the Celica had never been involved in a crash.
Ms Treacy said that she got a pre-accident value for the Celica of €8,240 but Fogarty was not happy with that. He said it was a higher-spec model.
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 said that he returned the vehicle to Fogarty in November 2008 and he was not happy with the state of repair.
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 parents' 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 to Fogarty's car so that he could use those body parts and fit them to the accused's vehicle.
He served a jail term for handling and possessing stolen vehicles after his garage was raided by gardai in April 2009.
Mr Kelly refused to accept a suggestion that he reported the alleged harassment to gardai as "leverage" when he was caught with the stolen cars.