A COUNTY Limerick businessman who attempted to defraud €52,000 from AXA Insurance by falsely reporting his car had been hijacked will be sentenced in October.
Pat Laffan, aged 62, of Tullovin, Croom admitted making a fraudulent insurance claim, relating to his 2012-registered Mercedes E220, on December 16, 2013.
During a sentencing hearing this week, Limerick Circuit Court was told the defendant, who was a voluntary director of Rathkeale and District Credit Union at the time, made a statement to the Police Service of Northern Ireland claiming that his car was taken from him by a group of men who forced him off the road as he was travelling to visit friends in Newtownards.
In his statement of complaint, which was read out in court this week, he stated that one of the men called him a “Fenian f*****” before hitting the bonnett of his car a number of times.
Laffan, an advertising sales manager for a wedding planning website, told the PSNI he was pulled from the vehicle and left in darkness on the side of the road.
During this week’s hearing, Detective Garda Fergal Hanrahan said the defendant made a claim with AXA the day after the alleged hijacking.
He agreed with John O’Sullivan BL, that the claim was for the full value of the car as he had paid for an ‘extra’ when he took out the insurance having bought the vehicle new.
AXA, he said, became suspicious about what happened and launched an investigation a number of days later.
Judge Tom O’Donnell was told Laffan wrote to AXA in March 2014 expressing his annoyance and threated to refer the matter to his solicitor if the claim was not paid within seven days.
Det Hanrahan said the defendant’s car was located by gardai at a lock-up facility in the city on March 31, 2014 - three days before he (Laffan) reiterated his version of events in an email to AXA.
The owner of the premises told gardai Laffan had approached him a number of months earlier and asked if he could park the Mercedes there for a few weeks as he was waiting for gearbox parts.
Following his arrest on April 9, 2014 the married father-of-four made admissions telling gardai he had done it as he was in severe financial difficulties.
The court was told the Mercedes, which was bought new by Laffan, remains in the possession of gardai and that the claim was never paid by AXA.
Pat Barriscale BL, said his client had debts of almost €100,000 at the time as his income dropped enormously during the recession.
A medical report from Laffan’s GP stated that he was suffering “severe tension and depression” in 2013 due to his financial pressures and that he had been prescribed anti-depressants.
“He accepts and admits he hatched this scheme and followed through on it,” he said adding that he did not think of the consequences.
Mr Barriscale said the publicity surrounding the proceedings has had disastrous consequences for his client who has been subjected to public shame and ridicule. The case was adjourned to October 1, next.