A MAN living in a remote part of County Cork was coerced into handing over thousands of euro to a Killarney man on threat of a drugs gang shooting him in front of his children.
62-year-old Michael O’Brien of 2 Hazelwood Road, Killarney, was given a three-year suspended jail term at Cork Circuit Criminal Court today on evidence that he had repaid a total of €26,000 on charges relating to €19,500 that was stolen.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said, “This was an appalling type of abuse. He knew their vulnerability and he preyed on it.”
Garda Paul Breen said this case of demanding money with menaces dated back a significant period between to December 2007 and February 2010.
O’Brien had supplied furniture to the couple for which he was paid several thousand euro, all of which was in the form of legitimate transactions.
However, the offence of demanding money with menaces commenced when the defendant said he was under pressure from a drugs gang if he could not pay them €3,500. The householder paid O’Brien this money.
Over the following years, the threats against the man were made.
“He was told that if he did not continue paying him (O’Brien) he (the injured party) would be taken out and shot in front of their children if they (the injured party and his wife) did not pay,” Garda Breen testified.
A total of €19,500 was paid in sums that were directly attributable to extortion. Other sums were paid for transactions in relation to furniture.
Eventually, a complaint was made to gardaí. Through phone records and banking transaction records the crimes were linked to Michael O’Brien. When first interviewed he made no comment but by the second interview he made full admissions and paid the injured party €26,000 over the past several years.
Because of the extreme fear that the couple in this remote part of Cork, who are now pensioners, were under Judge Ó Donnabháin noted their request that their names and address would not be published.
Donal O’Sullivan, defence barrister, said the delay in the case coming to sentencing was not a fault of the accused.
This was accepted. He also said that €6,500 was paid in excess of the amounts related to the extortion for which O’Brien was charged.
Mr O’Sullivan said the defendant was presently serving a sentence for an unrelated crime.
Judge Ó Donnabháin then imposed the three-year fully suspended sentence, taking into consideration the plea of guilty and the payment of compensation.