A YOUNG father was jailed for three years after he scammed an elderly woman out of €10,000 which she had saved for her funeral expenses.
Father of five Denis O'Brien (29) of Hazelwood Drive, Ballyspillane, Kerry was jailed for what Judge Sean O'Donnabhain warned Cork Circuit Criminal Court was "a despicable and mean-spirited offence."
The court was told that a portion of the €10,000 had been saved up by the woman over a period of years to pay her funeral expenses.
O’Brien, who pleaded guilty to four counts of theft, has a total of 59 previous convictions.
These include theft by deception, convictions involving four elderly people ranging in age from 67 to a vulnerable 86 year old man.
Det Garda John Gleeson told the court that on September 26 2019 the defendant went to the house of a 74 year old woman in Cork city.
He told the woman that he was nephew of her neighbour.
He said that woman had work carried out on her home but now couldn’t afford to pay it.
The householder - wanting to help her neighbour - made out a cheque to the value of €4,900.
O’Brien also stole a blank cheque and €600 in cash.
A day later, an accomplice of the man went to the bank and cashed the cheque.
O'Brien then returned to the woman and said he needed more money for the alleged works which were carried out on her neighbour's home.
She went to the credit union and withdrew €4,500.
The accomplice also went to the bank with this cheque to get it cashed.
The second man was paid just €600 for his involvement in the deception.
At an earlier hearing of the case O'Brien said he was the main carer for his mother, who suffers from chronic lung disease and emphysema.
His five children range in age from six years to six months.
Det Garda Gleeson said that Mr O'Brien was arrested after CCTV security camera footage connected him to the crime.
He said that O'Brien was without visible means of support.
Defence counsel Paula McCarthy BL said that genuine efforts were being made by her client to raise compensation in the case.
However, Judge O'Donnabhain expressed concern about the providence of any such compensation.
"This lady deserves to get her money back and if there was a lawful source it would keep everyone happy," he said.
Judge O’Donnabhain decided to finalise sentencing when Garda Gleeson told him that he would be concerned about the providence of any compensation furnished by O’Brien.
The elderly woman has not received any of the money back - and now faces being at the loss of the entire €10,000 involved.
In evidence it was outlined that the woman had saved the money over several years as she did not want her funeral to impose any financial burden on her loved ones.
The judge described the crime as despicable adding that he had preyed on the “innocence and vulnerability” of the woman.
He jailed O’Brien for five years suspending the last two years of the sentence.
Cork elderly rights campaigner Paddy O’Brien warned that the pensioners must be careful of such bogus tradesmen and sales people.
“Many years ago the problem was that elderly people didn’t have enough to live on. That has changed thankfully. The greatest single problem they have now is living in fear," he said.
"They are afraid to go to bed at night. It is frightening what people are experiencing."
Mr O'Brien said communities need to unite to protect and support the elderly.
"Neighbours need to more vigilant. Seeing a strange car or a strange person knocking at a neighbours door. Take their (car) number.
"This has to be a collective effort not just by the gardai only.
"To the elderly themselves I would say - don’t have any conversation whatsoever if you don’t know the person. If you open the door to a stranger then close it again."