A Dubliner who pretended to be a handyman and stole more than € 32,000 from an 89-year-old woman has been sentenced to three years in prison, the last 20 months suspended.
Brian O’Neill (47) pleaded guilty to 99 counts of theft totaling € 32,460, committed over a period of 18 months from October 2013.
On sentencing today in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Patricia Ryan described the crime as a “total breach of trust by a vulnerable elderly person”.
Judge Ryan said it was a planned and premeditated offense, and noted that a probation report placed O’Neill at “moderate risk” to reoffend. However, she gave O’Neill credit for his early guilty plea, good professional record, and remorse.
The court heard that O’Neill, of Clarence Mangan Road in Dublin 8, lived very close to the injured party, Teresa Byrne and started calling her home to do odd jobs he said needed to be done.
Ms Byrne paid O’Neill for his work with a combination of cash and checks, but at one point he stole his checkbook and began to write checks for himself.
Garda Colleen Doherty told Prosecutor John Quirke BL that on August 19, 2014, Ms Byrne arrived at her bank in a state of distress.
Her bank manager alerted her that her account was severely depleted and drew her attention to numerous checks drawn in the name of a Brian O’Neill.
The bank manager then contacted gardaí on behalf of Ms. Byrne.
Ms Byrne told Gardaí that O’Neill called her home that morning to ask her for € 400 in cash, which he claimed to owe her. She told him that she should go to the bank for the money, and he replied that he would be back that afternoon to collect the money.
Garda Doherty said she walked Ms Byrne home and saw O’Neill calling at her door.
O’Neill was unaware that Gardaí was inside the house and he became loud and aggressive, demanding that Mrs. Byrne give him the money and shouting, “You are disturbing me”.
Gardaí then staked O’Neill’s house and obtained a search warrant. He was finally arrested on May 14, 2015.
Defending Luigi Rea BL said O’Neill had a total of € 1,750 to offer Ms Byrne as a practical expression of her remorse.
The court heard that the bank had refunded Ms Byrne all the money O’Neill had stolen from her and that the bank itself was now at a loss.
Mr Rea said his client trained in a trade but suffered an injury and received compensation, after which he developed alcohol and gambling problems.
He said the probation report showed O’Neill had tackled his gambling problems and had been employed for a year and a half.
Judge Ryan has suspended the last 20 months of the sentence, on condition that O’Neill complies with probation services for one year upon his release from prison.
She also ordered him to devote himself to offense-focused and victim-oriented work, to continue to treat his substance abuse issues, and to attend all appointments as directed.