Saturday 20 July 2019

Man given €24k by mistake spent it


A man who spent €24,000 mistakenly given to him by an insurance company has appeared before the circuit criminal court in Dundalk.

James O'Connor (33), 118 Doolargy Avenue, Muirhevnamór pleaded guilty to theft of the cash, the property of Axa Insurance, at Permanent TSB, Clanbrassil Street, on 18 October, 2016.

Judge Petria McDonnell heard the defendant successfully made a claim after his car was stolen and €1,200 was paid into his account.

However, the day after he checked his balance and saw €24,000 had been debited to the account, which turned out to be another customer's claim.

Rather than return the money, he later told investigators: 'I don't see that type of money. I went mad with it.'

He repaid a €10,000 loan to his mother, spent €4,000 on his children for Christmas and 'wasted' the rest on clothes.

Detective Garda Conor McCaughey gave evidence that once the error was found a staff member attempted to contact O'Connor to seek the return of the money but to no avail.

A fraud investigator sent an email to which he replied 'I'm going to have to go to my solicitor. I don't know where the money came from.'

A report of the alleged fraud was made on 21 November, 2016.

Det Gda McCaughey said he met James O'Connor by arrangement on the following 20 February and he made a voluntary cautionary statement.

He knew he was doing wrong and told the guards he wouldn't like to think someone got the sack over it (the mistake).

No money has been paid back.

The court was told O'Connor, a father of four, has 24 previous convictions for road traffic matters, public order, trespass and an assault causing harm.

Barrister Donough McDonough, instructed by solicitor Frank McDonnell, said this was a mistake by the insurance company.

His client didn't go looking for the money. He realised it was not his, but rather than return it, 'went mad' as he said himself in a statement.

Civil proceedings issued and O'Connor consented to a judgement in the full amount. No money has been paid back, and he is not in a position to pay it.

Mr McDonough added the defendant is not working, having last been employed 18 months ago. He is the sole carer for three of his children.

He left school at 13, and worked on and off as a labourer. He had an intermittent drink problem.

His plea of guilty was of considerable assistance, and counsel asked the judge to consider a non-custodial sentence.

O'Connor is willing to engage with the probation service with a view to doing community service.

Judge McDonnell adjourned the sentence hearing to 18 July next. She ordered a probation report, adding she will then decide whether or not to give James O'Connor community service.

The Argus