A CATTLE dealer who defrauded a County Limerick farmer out of more than €20,000 avoided a prison sentence as he has paid full compensation.
Padraic Fitzgerald, aged 48, with an address at Kilbride, Arklow, County Wicklow admitted two offences of “dishonestly and by deception inducing another to accept two cheques worth €20,380 knowing that there was no funds in the account and with the intention of making gain for himself”.
During a sentencing hearing, Limerick Circuit Court was told the offences happened at a farm at Scart, Kilteely on dates between April 14, 2010 and July 1 of the same year.
Sergeant Ted Riordan said the defendant had agreed to buy 41 cattle from Roger O’Dea and that he had paid for the cattle with two post dated cheques - one for €10,000 and one for €10,380.
Sgt Riordan told Michael Collins BL, prosecuting, that both cheques were “stopped” by the bank when Mr O’Dea attempted to lodge them into his account a number of days after the cattle had been removed from his land.
The court heard that following contact between the pair about the matter, Mr Fitzgerald lodged €10,000 into Mr O’Dea’s bank account.
Sgt Riordan said when the outstanding monies were not paid, a complaint was made to gardai. He agreed with Mr Collins, instructed by State Solicitor Aidan Judge, that Mr Fitzgerald “had a history of having insufficient funds to meet cheques”.
Mr Collins told the court defendant was constantly “juggling funds” and that it was a constant “robbing Peter to pay Paul situation”.
Mark Nicholas BL, defending, said his client, who was running a small-time construction business at the time has since repaid all of the monies to Mr O’Dea.
He said his client - a married father-of-three – had made admissions following his arrest and had pleaded guilty at an early stage. He added he made no attempt to hide his identity adding that the cheques were made out from his own bank account as “it was never his intention not to pay”.
Urging the Court not to impose a custodial sentence, Mr Nicholas added: “It was a case of optimism over reality.”
Imposing sentence, Judge Carroll Moran said the sum of money involved was “substantial enough” and he said while full compensation has been paid, Mr O’Dea was “out of pocket for the best part of three-and-a-half years”.
The judge said it was an aggravating factor that Mr Fitzgerald has a previous conviction for deception.
However, he said the payment of compensation and the fact that there was “no element of falsehoods” were mitigating factors.
He imposed a two-year sentence, which he suspended for four years.