A DISTRICT Court judge has described an Offaly man, who was caught carrying out a bogus collection for the homeless outside a Kinsale supermarket earlier this summer, as an ‘accomplished con man.’
Judge James McNulty made the comment when dealing with the case of John McDonagh (47) of Mill Street, Birr, Co Offaly who pleaded guilty to offences at Bandon District Court last week.
The court heard that the defendant has already a conviction for a similar offence in East Cork, while he is also appealing a conviction for the same type of offence, which he had received at Bandon District Court on June 4th.
Sgt Paul Kelly told the court that on June 16th last a garda on patrol in Kinsale came across the defendant who had a bucket and a t-shirt with the words ‘Please help the homeless of Cork’ written on them outside Spar.
The court heard that he initially gave the garda a different name and pointed to an ID badge that he was wearing. However, on arrival at Kinsale Garda Station, the defendant gave gardaí his correct name and admitted he had no permit to carry out such a collection.
Gardaí then seized the bucket which contained €31.50, as well as the t-shirt and badge.
The court heard that Mr McDonagh has 39 previous convictions, including one for a similar offence from Youghal District Court on November 6th last.
It also emerged that McDonagh has an appeal pending in the Circuit Court for a conviction handed down to him at Bandon District Court on June 4th last. The court heard that the defendant had been collecting outside the Riverview Shopping Centre on December 2nd last without a permit and had received two six-month sentences for holding a collection without a permit and using a false instrument.
Judge McNulty noted the trial lasted two hours and had two witnesses, including a fundraising manager from the Simon Community, were in court to give evidence against McDonagh.
Judge James McNulty told his solicitor Eamonn Fleming that it seemed his client hadn’t been entirely truthful with him but Mr Fleming said his client had said it to him in passing.
‘You weren’t told about it and it does cast a shadow over his sincerity and credibility, and it’s hard for a court to accept him being deserving of leniency,’ said Judge McNulty.
Mr Fleming said there was nothing good about the nature of the crime and said his client is a carer for his wife and daughter and had brought €250 in cash into court.
Judge McNulty noted that 12 days after the trial at Bandon District Court, the defendant was back in West Cork re-offending in the same manner. Mr Fleming said the offence needs to be taken into perspective as the amount collected only amounted to €30 but said the offence was ‘reprehensible.’
‘He is a long way from home if he’s a carer for his wife and daughter. You would wonder why he isn’t in back in Birr minding them?’ asked Judge McNulty.
Judge McNulty added that John McDonagh is an ‘accomplished con man.’
‘It’s beyond dishonest, it’s deceitful and it’s taking advantage of decent people who respond to his request to help homeless people.’
In sentencing him to four months in prison, Judge McNulty said the court takes a ‘grave view’ of his deceitfulness and dishonesty.
Recognisance for an appeal was fixed in the defendant’s own bond of €1,000 with no cash required and Judge McNulty directed that as part of his bail condition, McDonagh shall not visit any town or place in the county of Cork pending the hearing of his appeal, other than meeting with his solicitor.