A 73-YEAR-OLD Leap man found guilty of deception of a 95-year-old Kenmare man, involving sums totalling €70,000, has received a suspended prison sentence.
Patrick Hurley, of Carhoogarriff, Leap, had previously pleaded not guilty to four charges – two counts of theft and two counts of making gain or causing loss by deception – relating to incidents involving Eugene O’Sullivan, known as Ireland’s oldest mart drover, on dates between December 2016 and March 2017.
Hurley was found not guilty of two counts of theft by a jury of seven men and five women after a week-long trial at Tralee Circuit Court sitting in Limerick. But Hurley was found guilty of two counts of deception after he dishonestly induced Mr O’Sullivan to withdraw cash by falsely stating his savings, which were in his bank account in Bank of Ireland, Kenmare, were not secure, and persuaded him to take out €20,000 in cash on December 14th, 2016 and €50,000 in cash on March 15th, 2017.
The court previously heard that the accused, Patrick Hurley, told Mr O’Sullivan the banks were going to close and his money would be gone.
The victim, Eugene O’Sullivan, had sought ‘large sums of cash’ from his bank, but was refused twice. But, after receiving letters from two different solicitors, the bank allowed the withdrawals. Hurley had led one solicitor to believe he was closely related to Mr O’Sullivan, but the victim’s nephew, Joe O’Shea, confirmed Hurley and Mr O’Sullivan were not related, the court had been told.
Imposing a two-year sentence, which he suspended for two years, Judge Tom O’Donnell told Hurley his actions were ‘cold, cunning, calculated, and premeditated’.
He said Hurley ‘befriended’ Mr O’Sullivan and ‘persuaded him that his money was at risk, telling him the banks were failing, which caused the victim serious alarm’.
Mr O’Sullivan subsequently contacted his bank in Kenmare requesting to withdraw ‘a large amount of money’, but was told he had to involve solicitors to do so.
The victim instructed two solicitors to write to the bank so he could withdraw his savings, before eventually being allowed to take out a total of €70,000.
The sentencing judge praised gardaí for their ‘swift actions’ and also complemented Tom Keane and Conor Brosnan of Bank of Ireland in Kenmare for contacting gardaí after they became suspicious.
The court had previously heard that in August 2016, Mr Keane, who was assistant manager at the bank at the time, received a letter from Tralee-based solicitor Maura E Hennessy stating that Mr O’Sullivan wished to withdraw €400,000 to purchase land in Kilgarvan.
Mr Keane said Mr O’Sullivan had previously come into the branch and ‘looked for a large amount of money’.
He told the court the victim’s request for a sum of cash ‘in the region of €300,000’ to purchase land was ‘completely off the cuff’ as he’d never ‘done this before’.
Mr Keane said he told Mr O’Sullivan he couldn’t just come in and get that amount of money, and he had to involve solicitors and prove purchase of lands.
The bank then received a letter from Pat Farrelly of O’Mahony Farrelly O’Callaghan solicitors in Bantry which noted Mr O’Sullivan’s ‘disappointment’ that the bank would not give him his money as he needed it for repair works in his home.
At 2.30pm on December 14, 2016, Mr Farrelly and Mr O’Sullivan met with Mr Keane at the bank, and despite his concerns and a duty of care towards a ‘vulnerable customer’, Mr Keane gave €20,000 in cash to Mr O’Sullivan.
Conor Brosnan, who was bank manager at Bank of Ireland in Kenmare at the time, said that in February 2017 the bank received a further letter from Mr Pat Farrelly requesting €50,000 in cash for Mr O’Sullivan from his client’s bank account.
On March 15, 2017, Mr Farrelly and Mr O’Sullivan visited the Kenmare Bank of Ireland branch and withdrew €50,000 in cash and placed the funds in a brown leather bag.
Mr Brosnan said he observed a jeep pull up outside the bank and the bag being put through the passenger side window.
The court later heard the defendant, Patrick Hurley, was driving the jeep.
Defending barrister Brian McInerney, instructed by Eimear Griffin of Padraig O’Connell Solicitors, said his client had arranged a €10,000 bank draft to be paid to Mr O’Sullivan.
Urging leniency, Mr McInerney asked Judge O’Donnell to consider his client’s offer of compensation, his age, and to take into account his ‘reputation has already been tarnished’.
Judge O’Donnell said Mr O’Sullivan, who still works at Kenmare Mart, had worked hard all his life to save €400,000.
‘I admire his courage, and despite his age, coming to court to give evidence,’ he added.