A JUDGE has described as “the lowest of the low” a scam in which three men tried to defraud an elderly Newcastle West woman of more than €5,000.
Judge Mary Larkin made her comments in Newcastle West district after hearing evidence in the case of Shane O’Brien of 27A Woodfield Green in the town, who pleaded guilty to a charge of attempting to defraud the woman on November 11 2014.
The court heard that the woman had answered an advertisement for tree cutting services placed by Mr O’Brien. They agreed a price of €500 for the job but Mr O’Brien arrived the next day with two other men who demanded €5,300 payment after carrying out the work. The woman went to her Credit Union and withdrew €3,300 which she handed over to the men. However, they demanded the remaining €2,000 which the lady also handed over.
She later told her son what had happened and he contacted the gardai to report the incident.
Solicitor John Lynch, defending, told the court that his client had been on a Back-to-Work scheme and was trying to earn some money, so he placed an ad in a local newspaper offering tree cutting services.
Mr Lynch told the court that his client had gone to do the work, along with two other men, who had since left the jurisdiction.
“When he was doing the work, the other two demanded the money unknown to him,” Mr Lynch said.
However, after the woman’s son contacted the gardai who made him aware of what had happened, O’Brien went to the other two men and retrieved the money, which he then handed back to the woman, including the €500 originally agreed for the job.
“He was unaware of the amount collected by the other individuals until he was contacted by the gardai,” Mr Lynch added. “He was very upset and annoyed at what had happened.”
The court heard that O’Brien, a 36-year-old father of two, had 13 previous convictions, including for drugs offences, theft and road traffic matters.
Mr Lynch pointed out that these matters went back “a few years” and that the injured party was not left out of pocket as a result of what had happened.
Judge Mary Larkin said she was “absolutely horrified” by the case.
“This kind of crime is despicable. An elderly lady living on her own - imagine the kind of stress it caused her,” the judge said.
“This just has to be the lowest of the low”.
She adjourned the case to allow time for the preparation of a victim impact statement and a report from the Probation Service.
“If it was anyone’s mother or grandmother, they would be absolutely horrified that she would be put through this low, despicable thing,” she added.