A FORMER Dublin solicitor who fraudulently converted cheques for buying properties has been ordered to do 220 hours community service.
Vincent O'Donoghue (62) of Whitworth Road, Drumcondra, was extradited from Australia last year after spending four years in custody fighting the extradition.
He pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to fraudulently converting cheques totalling IR£34,828 (€44,231) which were to be used as deposits on properties in Dublin and Belfast.
O'Donoghue admitted fraudulently converting cheques for IR£4,000 and IR£9.643, which were entrusted to Property World by Barry Redmond, to put as a deposit towards the purchases of properties at Omeath Street and Portmine, Belfast on July 2, 1992 and November 25, 1998.
He also admitted fraudulently converting a cheque made payable to Property World for IR£15,500 by Ciaran Henderson to be put as a deposit for purchase of a property at Richmond Square, North Brunswick Street, Dublin, on January 22, 1999.
The court heard that O'Donoghue was arrested in May 2000 but went to Australia in July 2002.
He fought his extradition and was in custody in Australia from 2009 to 2013.
He was also in custody for four months on his return to Ireland last year.
O'Donoghue had been due to face trial in March but changed his plea to guilty less than two weeks beforehand.
Judge Mary Ellen Ring noted O'Donoghue had no previous convictions and a probation report had put him at low risk of reoffending.
She ordered him to carry out 220 hours community service in lieu of a two year sentence.
At an earlier hearing she said the level of fraud represented a serious breach of trust to Mr Redmond and Mr Henderson, both of whom had given him money as deposits which has never been recovered.
She pointed out that O'Donoghue's guilty plea was very late and meant that the lives of the two injured parties had been put on hold for the last 15 years.
Detective Inspector Gerard Walsh from the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation told James Dwyer BL, prosecuting, that O'Donoghue had been selling apartments when Mr Henderson approached him to have his Dublin apartment sold and gave him IR£15,500 as a deposit.
Mr Redmond's dealings with O'Donoghue relate to various properties in the North and the UK.
He was defrauded by a total of IR£19,328 over a ten-month period in the late 1990s.
Sean Guerin SC, defending, said his client left the country before he knew charges were pending against him and that his decision to leave had not been illegal.
However, Det Inspt Walsh said: "Nobody told him it was all over."
Mr Guerin said O'Donoghue was a qualified solicitor but that the alleged offences had nothing to do with his professional work.
He said his client became involved in property but got into financial difficulties and was declared bankrupt before he left Ireland. His bankruptcy has since been discharged.