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Gambling addict who extorted money through social media 'exposure' threats is jailed

The court heard that the allegations made by the man were “without any foundation whatsoever”.

A GAMBLING ADDICT who harassed four people and extorted thousands of euro from them to feed his addiction has been given a five year sentence.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard John Buckley AKA Maughan (28) had extorted money from his victims by threatening to “expose” them in various ways on social media.

John Buckley AKA Maughan, with an address at Danes Court, Lusk, pleaded guilty to sample counts from a total of 94 charges, including four of harassment and the remainder of making demands with menaces in relation to four named victims.

At a hearing yesterday, the court heard that Maughan extorted a total of over €14,000 from the victims, all of which they transferred into his account with Boyle Sports gambling company.

The offences took place at various locations within north County Dublin on dates between January 2017 and August 2018.

Maughan threatened one man in his 60s that he would tell his family that he was a paedophile, the court heard. He then made further threats to the man’s wife and son that he would share these untrue allegations on social media and send them to other family members.

Prosecuting Garda Michael Owen told the court these allegations were “without any foundation whatsoever.”

In a separate series of offences carried out in June, July and August of 2018, Maughan threatened a woman with whom he had a fling that he would send intimate photos of her to her boyfriend, the court heard. He also harassed and extorted €2,000 from this woman.

Passing sentence today, Judge Martin Nolan said Maughan had caused huge trauma and distress to his victims.

He noted the threat in relation making an allegation that one of the victims was a paedophile was “hugely insidious and damaging” and he could not imagine a more serious allegation.

He said it was “morally reprehensible” and Maughan was extremely culpable for what he had done.

Judge Nolan noted in relation to threatening to send photos of the woman that it appeared Maughan had little or no conscience or morality at all.

He said it was an unusual case and hard to know where to start with sentencing.

He noted in mitigation that Maughan was remorseful and had engaged in this behaviour as a way to deal with his gambling debts. He noted Maughan’s guilty plea and co-operation.

He said however that the victims had behaved well towards Maughan and had endured huge trauma as a result of their involvement with him.

Judge Nolan imposed concurrent sentences totalling five years and ordered Maughan to have no contact with any of the injured parties for 20 years.

Garda Owen told Diana Stuart BL, prosecuting, that the first victim in his 60s, who does not wish to be named, contacted gardaí to make a complaint about Maughan.

This man, who had a passing friendship with Maughan, told gardaí, “I’ve no idea why John is doing this to me as I’ve always been very good to him and his family.”

The man said that in around 2017 or 2018, he got a text message from Maughan asking for €150 and threatening to ring the man’s son and tell him he was a paedophile and “ruin his son’s life”.

The victim texted back saying Maughan wasn’t getting any money, but the accused continued to threaten him and gave him the details of his BoyleSports account where the money was to be transferred.

The victim ended up paying a total of €12,135 into Maughan’s BoyleSports account, the court heard.

Gda Owen said the victim was not on social media but that friends and family members contacted him to say that various Facebook posts were alleging that he was a paedophile.

Maughan also sent a message on social media to the man’s wife, saying something like “Your husband is a dirty rotten scumbag who sexually assaulted me when I was young and I’m going to get him.”

The woman told gardaí she felt sick and was unhappy that her husband had ever given the accused money.

The accused then began sending Facebook messages and texts to the woman and to her son, looking for amounts of money ranging from €250 to €2,000 and threatening to post allegations and send them to other family members.

The woman said it was devastating for her and her family and had a huge negative impact on her life.

The couple’s son also made a complaint to gardaí saying he got a Facebook message from Maughan saying his father was a “sick person” and had forced himself on him.

In total, the son got 14 threatening social media messages from Maughan and a demand with menaces for €650.

Maughan also posted pictures of the victim’s father on social media and told people to keep away from him, referring to the older man “touching little kids”.

In the second case, a 24-year-old woman went to gardaí to make a complaint about Maughan, claiming he had sent her a total of 150 Facebook messages looking for money.

The woman said she got to know Maughan through her boyfriend and that he complimented her and she “gradually fell for his charm” but that she later realised he was setting the scene for asking her for money.

Maughan told the woman that he needed €250 for his son to have an operation and she gave it to him in the full belief that he would repay it.

They began to have fling and she sent him a topless photo of herself and some other photos in her underwear, and he sent her five ‘risky’ photos of himself.

The fling ended but resumed some months later and Maughan began threatening to send intimate pictures and screenshots of their chat history to her boyfriend.

Maughan has five previous convictions, including for theft and failing to appear.

Dominic McGinn SC, defending Maughan, said his client had “preyed upon those who showed him some kindness”.

McGinn said Maughan had a gambling addiction and was also addicted to controlled drugs.

Counsel said Maughan was in a stable relationship and had two children, one who suffers from severe autism.

McGinn said that as a child, Maughan was a promising footballer and had been offered a place in a UK professional football academy, but that this didn’t happen as his father wasn’t keen.

Maughan then spiralled downwards “in the world of drugs and gambling,” counsel said, noting that the accused “isn’t there yet” in terms of addressing his gambling addiction.

A probation report expressed concern about Maughan’s addiction, the court heard.

McGinn said Maughan’s five-year-old son was very attached to his father who was “a very valuable role model” and that a custodial term would be felt most keenly by the child.

Jessica Magee and Fiona Ferguson