AN “extremely vicious and wicked” scam saw an 81-year-old man being conned out of his life savings by men pretending to be Revenue Commissioners and now one of the con men has been jailed for three years.
Detective Sergeant Michael Reidy testified that the victims of this crime were two men aged 81 and 55.
“They were visited at their home by persons purporting to be from the Revenue Commissioners. Demands were made for funds on the basis of tax liability.
“The injured parties would receive a telephone call and instructions to have monies available at a particular time or date. For instance, they were told in a call on a Friday to have €5,000 by Monday.
“He (the injured party) would go to the carpark of Charleville church. He (the person he met) said he was a tax collector,” Det. Sgt. Reidy said.
These phonecalls, followed by meetings and payments at the church car park resulted in the injured parties having their life savings reduced to nil, the investigating sergeant testified at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.
Threats were also made to the injured parties that if monies were not paid they would be brought before the courts and their names would be splashed across newspapers as tax defaulters.
“Both men were relieved of their life savings,” Det. Sgt. Reidy said.
They took out everything they had in their post office accounts, the older man cashed in a life assurance policy and still more money was being demanded.
“14 acres of land were put up for sale to meet the demands of these people purporting to be Revenue Commissioners. The people they (the injured parties) met were very convincing men. They were all the time of the belief that they were Revenue Commissioners,” Det. Sgt. Reidy said.
When the gardaí were eventually made aware of what was happening they were present for one of the meetings arranged for the handover of €5,000. The gardaí moved in and 21-year-old Patrick O’Donnell of 97 Assumpta Park, Newcastlewest, County Limerick, was arrested.
A total of €48,200 was stolen. €30,000 was repaid.
Apart from this activity the defendant had been previously involved in the gathering of scrap metals, Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin was told. The defendant had no previous convictions. Defence senior counsel Tom Creed said the accused was the man who was physically turning up at the meetings to collect money but other parties were involved in making the calls and setting up the scam.
“He was under the sway of others. He was one of the lesser involved,” Mr Creed suggested. Det. Sgt. Reidy agreed, “He was not the brains behind the operation per se. But he was an important cog in this operation.” Mr Creed asked for leniency and said the young man suffered from depression.
Judge Ó Donnabháin said, “This is an extremely serious offence. A pattern was set up whereby men were identified first and then preyed upon.
“The money was extracted from them. What is still regarded as the greatest threat of all – the Revenue Commissioners – these two men were in living hell. One of them used to get sick when he got the phonecalls. It went on continuously.
“Bit by bit, all but their entire life savings were extracted from them.
“I cannot say Patrick O’Donnell was the main man but he was actively taking money in this scam from two innocent men outside a church in Charleville. He was an active participant in an extremely vicious, wicked scheme. He did it more than once.
“He and his family have made significant efforts. €30,000 of the €47,200 has been paid back to the victims. But the idea that more money might be got if a suspended sentence might be available, just won’t wash.
“To put people through this in their homes is really horrendous.” The judge imposed a sentence of five years with the last two years suspended.
O’Donnell pleaded guilty to ten charges related mainly to sums of around €5,000 and one of €2,000 and another of €7,000.