THE family of a retired priest has claimed a woman who befriended him "preyed on him" and fraudulently misappropriated more than €130,000 of his money.
The relatives of Fr Vincent Kelly (86), a former parish priest in Palmerstown, Dublin, have brought a High Court action against Mary McLoughlin because they say the cleric has suffered great financial loss and damage due to her "deception, fraud, deceit and theft."
At the High Court, Mr Justice Roderick made a number of orders, including one prohibiting Ms McLoughlin, of Corraugan, Kilmeena, Westport, Co Mayo, from reducing her assets below €51,713.06.
Freezing orders were also obtained against Ms McLoughlin's nephew, Thomas McLoughlin, who cannot dissipate his assets below €39,000 and her niece Tara McLoughlin, who cannot reduce her assets below €25,000.
The action was brought by Fr Kelly's sister, Ann Geary, of Pontoon, Foxford, Co Mayo, who has power of attorney over his affairs. The orders were made on an ex-parte (one side only) basis. The matter was made returnable to a date later this month.
The court heard that Fr Kelly, a former parish priest in Palmerstown, Dublin, retired to his native Co Mayo in 2001. He was active in his community and carried out relief work.
In recent times he developed health problems and his memory began to fade. In an affidavit, Mrs Geary said she first became aware of Ms McLoughlin's existence in late 2011 when her brother told her that a friend, who was also a distant relative, was going to move in to his house in Westport to keep him company, and act as his housekeeper/secretary.
He did not tell Mrs Geary who this person was but said he had given them money because the person was at risk of losing their house to the bank.
Mrs Geary said she became suspicious about this virtual stranger. After making inquires, she was informed that the person was Ms McLoughlin, a single woman in her 50s or 60s who worked as a senior social welfare officer.
Fr Kelly's family, she said, were unhappy about her relationship with Fr Kelly. Over the last number of months Fr Kelly's health had deteriorated, which required him being hospitalised.
Since leaving hospital, Fr Kelly has resided with his sister.
However after the family conducted inquiries into Fr Kelly's affairs, matters came to light which shocked his relatives.
These included that Ms McLoughlin had been given joint control over bank accounts Fr Kelly had at AIB. Mrs Geary said when asked Fr Kelly had no recollection of giving such powers to Ms McLoughlin.
Mrs Geary said that Fr Kelly told them he only had accounts with An Post and AIB. However they discovered an account with Ulster Bank in his name.
When the family spoke to Ulster Bank they discovered that between April and June, €123,000 of Fr Kelly's money was lodged and removed/transferred by Ms McLoughlin.
The current balance of that account was "nil". They also learned from the bank that Ms McLoughlin had been given full signing authority by Fr Kelly.
The family claim some of the cash that came into the account came from two post office saving certificate cheques made out to Fr Kelly, worth more than €50,000. In addition money from the Ulster Bank account was transferred to Ms McLoughlin's nephew Thomas and niece Tara.
There were other developments that alarmed the family including when they discovered that last March Ms McLoughlin made arrangements for Fr Kelly's post to be given directly to her.