Monday 17 December 2018

Hacker steals €2,500 priest collected to fund special school

Jim Staples with the emails he received and (inset) Fr Leo Staples
Jim Staples with the emails he received and (inset) Fr Leo Staples

David Tucker

A hacker who posed as a missionary brother stole money saved by a 92-year-old Wexford priest to fund a Kenyan school.

Wexford man Jim Staples said he was devastated when he found out that more than €2,500 has been stolen from his uncle Fr Leo Staples’ account.

The money, which Staples had sent his uncle, was stolen by someone who had claimed to be a 'Brother Patrick' from the Bobleo Home in Kapenguria, Kenya.

The Western Union money order was in fact cashed hundreds of miles away in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, with the fraudster pretending to be Brother Patrick, even emailing Jim to tell him the funds had arrived safely.

Jim said the money had been intended for a school for children with disabilities being built at the Bobleo Home, which Fr Leo established with the help of a €10,000 bequest from his brother, the late Bob Staples.

The Fr Bob Staples Trust provides accommodation and schooling for youngsters with disabilities who would normally be kept at home by their families.

"We transfer money every so often so they can build the school. This normally takes up to a couple of months. I got an email from Brother Patrick saying he was desperate to pay his builders and could the money be sent more quickly," Jim told the Wexford People.

"The brothers are building four new classrooms and as normal they asked me to send on the funds to pay for this.

"I normally request a breakdown of how and where they are spending the money which they had sent on to me. I would then give the money to St Patrick’s Missionary Society in Kiltegan in Wicklow to give to their office in Nairobi. This could take up to six weeks before the Brothers get the money.

"I went to Anne Street Post office in Wexford town and paid in €2,591, giving Br Patrick’s details. I then emailed Br Patrick the details.

"Early the following morning I got a text to say the funds had been collected. I rang Br Patrick but could not get through.

"Later he rang me back and asked me to send on the details. I told him I had already done that and I told him about the text."

Jim said they subsequently realised Br Patrick’s email had been hacked and some of the emails he got were from the hackers and not from the real Br Patrick.

"I contacted Western Union who are investigating our claim and this will take 20 days. They confirmed the money had been collected in Nairobi not in Kitale as was to be the collection point," Jim told the Wexford People.

"I was absolutely devastated, we all are," said Jim. He said members of Fr Leo’s family have since reimbursed the priest, who has worked with the poor of Kenya for 66 years.

Enniscorthy-based accountant, Eugene Doyle, who was visiting Fr Leo in Kenya, had arranged to provide some cash to the builders, which solved the short-term problem. Eugene and his wife Louise had arranged a coffee morning in Enniscorthy where people had been very generous.

Luckily, Eugene had brought some of that money with him.

"The rest of that money was lodged in the account for the school here in Wexford. This will be sent to St Patricks in Kiltegan for them to transfer to Kenya as normal," said Jim.

Wexford People

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