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Tuesday 5 December 2023 Dublin: 3°C
power tools

Brothers jailed after they forced pensioner to pay thousands for chainsaws and tools

The judge described men’s actions as a “phenomenally serious offence”.

HOUSEHOLDERS WHO HAVE been duped by bogus tradesmen have been urged to call gardai following a case in which two brothers were jailed for two years each after they followed a 72-year-old woman home and persuaded her to part with thousands of euro for power tools, chain saws and generators.

Thomas O’Driscoll (39) Boherbuoi in Rathkeale, Co Limerick and Patrick O’Driscoll (38) Wolfburgess East, also in Rathkeale, appeared before Cork Circuit Criminal Court having previously pleaded guilty to a charge of deception at Goleen in November 2018.

The court heard the men travelled to West Cork on 20 November 2018 and stayed the night. The following day they engaged a woman in her seventies in conversation at a jewellery shop in Skibbereen.

Patrick O’Driscoll produced a machinery brochure and charmed the lady in to giving him her phone number. He told her he would be in Goleen later in the day.

At 3.30pm she phoned O’Driscoll and said there was no need to call. However, he told her he was reversing his van down her drive.

The woman was perplexed as her house was difficult to find and a distance of forty kilometres from Skibbereen. She was introduced to a second man called George.

She told the pair that she was moving out at the end of month and didn’t need machinery or tools.

The pair began to “charm” the pensioner with talk of Our Lady of Lourdes. Over the course of thirty minutes they became quite pushy with the elderly lady.

George, who gardaí now know was Thomas O’Driscoll, began filling a room in her home with machinery and tools whilst Patrick O’Driscoll continued the conversation with the woman.

The woman started to feel vulnerable as Patrick O’Driscoll became more aggressive. The men told her to write cheques which she made out for almost €25,000. She wrote six cheques in total.

The men, who are both fathers of four, even had the elderly woman tear up some cheques she had written and start again because they didn’t want them crossed.

The woman later told gardai that she was “bewildered” and couldn’t believe what had happened.

On November 23 2018 she contacted AIB in Skibbereen. Two of the cheques had been cashed to the sum of €6,500. The further cheques were cancelled by the bank who advised her to contact gardaí.

The men made no admissions to gardaí when they were initially arrested in January of 2019. At this point gardaí had seized the chainsaws and machinery which the men had left in the house in Goleen.

A victim impact statement was read out to Judge Sean O’Donnabhain.

Victim impact

The court heard that the woman was in Skibbereen on the date in question when she was approached by a man about buying machinery. She was dropped home from Skibbereen.

Shortly after she saw the light of a van reversing in to her drive at fast speed.

She said she was very worried but that her instincts told her “not to show fear” as the men persuaded her to write the cheques. She said she was perplexed by the incident.

She told the court she was going through “a lot of trauma” at the time and wasn’t in “the proper frame of mind” to deal with the men. She added she was “frightened and embarrassed” by the incident.

The men have paid €6,000 in compensation. Barristers for the men said they had €4,000 each held in relation to their bail which they instructed be also paid to the woman.

The woman now lives in sheltered housing. However, this was a planned move and didn’t occur arising out of the incident.

Barrister Mahon Corkery, representing Thomas O’Driscoll , said that the offence was “not professional or thought out” and that the plea was of significance because the victim didn’t have to give evidence in a trial.

Barrister Ray Boland for Patrick O’Driscoll, said that there was a significant amount of compensation being paid. He admitted it was a serious offence but made an appeal for leniency given that his client had never been before the Circuit Court previously.

Judge O’Donnabhain said it was a “phenomenally serious offence”.

He stated the men had followed “an elderly and vulnerable woman home to a remote location”.

He said the men were “overbearing” and didn’t give the woman “time to breathe much less think”.

He cited as an aggravating factor the fact that the men had the pensioner tear up the cheques and start them again when she crossed the documents. This he said was “an act of complete criminality.”

Describing their behaviour as a “total invasion of the privacy of the woman” he jailed the men for two years each. Two female relatives of the men became visibly and audibly upset when the sentence was handed down.

Following the case, Superintendent Ronan Kennelly of Bantry Garda Station made an appeal to the public to be wary of bogus tradesmen.

“I would ask the public to be aware of bogus callers and cold callers and if they have any difficulty not to engage with these people. Ring the gardai and we will check out their bona fides. This was a very callous and heinous crime.”

Kennelly said the conviction was a vindication of the woman’s efforts to have gardai investigate this type of offence.

“If any cold callers or bogus people come forward they should be reported. It is our resolve to investigate all of these incidents. We would urge people to forget about embarrassment, come forward whatever the amount is and we will investigate it.”

Olivia Kelleher