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Man who scammed €10,000 in funeral savings from 74-year-old woman is jailed for three years

The pensioner had set the money aside for her funeral before she was preyed on by the bogus tradesman.

Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard that Denis O’Brien (29) has 59 previous convictions. (File photo)
Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard that Denis O’Brien (29) has 59 previous convictions. (File photo)
Image: PA Images

A FATHER OF five who went to the house of a 74-year-old woman and scammed her out of over €10,000 has been jailed for three years following what the sentencing judge called a “despicable and mean offence.”

Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard that the pensioner who suffered at the hands of Denis O’Brien (29) from Hazelwood Drive in Ballyspillane, Killarney, Co Kerry had set the money aside for her funeral before she was preyed on by the bogus tradesman.

O’Brien has 59 previous convictions. These include theft by deception convictions involving four elderly people ranging in age from 67 to a vulnerable 86-year-old man.

Det Garda John Gleeson told the court that on 26 September of last year O’Brien went to the house of a woman in her seventies in Brian Dillon Park in Cork. He told the woman that he was nephew of her neighbour. The woman he said had work carried out on her home and couldn’t afford to pay it.

The householder made out a cheque to the value of €4,900 and O’Brien also stole a blank cheque. He also stole €600 in cash.

A day later an accomplice of the man went to the bank and cashed the cheque. O’Brien then returned to the woman and said he needed more money for the alleged works which were carried out. She went to the Credit Union and withdrew €4,500. 

The accomplice also went to AIB Bank with this cheque in order to get it cashed. The second man was paid just €600 for his involvement in the deception.

At an earlier hearing of the case, O’Brien told Cork District Court that he was the main carer for his mother, who suffers from chronic lung disease and emphysema. His five children range in age from six years to six months.

Det Garda Gleeson said that O’Brien was arrested after CCTV footage tied him to the crime. He said that Mr O’Brien, who lives in a caravan, was without visible means of support.

The court heard from barrister Paula McCarthy who that genuine efforts were being made by her client to raise compensation in the case. However, Judge Sean O’Donnabhain expressed concern about the providence of said compensation.

“This lady deserves to get her money back and if there was a lawful source it would keep everyone happy.”

Judge O’Donnabhain decided to finalise sentencing when Garda Gleeson told him that he would be concerned about the providence of any compensation furnished by O’Brien.

Judge O’Donnabhain described the crime as despicable adding that he had preyed on the “innocence and vulnerability” of the woman. He jailed O’Brien for five years suspending the last three years of the sentence.

Meanwhile, Paddy O’Brien, who campaigns for the elderly in Cork city, has issued a warning about bogus tradesman.

Many years ago the problem was that elderly people didn’t have enough to live on. That has changed thankfully. The greatest single problem they have now is living in fear. They are afraid to go to bed at night. It is frightening what people are experiencing.

“Neighbours need to more vigilant,” he added. “Seeing a strange car or a strange person knocking at a neighbours door. Take their (registration) number. This has to be a collective effort not just by the gardaí only. The elderly themselves I would say don’t have any conversation whatsoever if you don’t know the person. If you open the door to a stranger then close it again.”

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Olivia Kelleher

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