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Limerick widow’s savings returned from ‘tree cutting scam’

A widow living in a rural area outside Newcastle West was conned out of her life savings by a gang of local men operating as tree cutters. Below, Supt Tom O'Connor
GARDAI in Limerick have retrieved money extorted from a widow by a gang of con-men operating as tree-cutters.

GARDAI in Limerick have retrieved money extorted from a widow by a gang of con-men operating as tree-cutters.

All €5,300 was restored to the woman in the Newcastle West area last week, just days after the incident was first reported to gardai.

“It is an absolutely terrific result,” the woman’s daughter, Mary Cronin, said this week.

Last week, the Limerick Leader revealed that a widow living a few miles from Newcastle West was conned out of her life savings of €5,300 by a gang of four men.

The woman had responded to a local small ad and had agreed a price of €500 to top some trees near her home. On Tuesday of last week, a gang of four men arrived to do the job. There were two to do the job, one to do the talking and a fourth who stayed in the van.

Within an hour of starting the job, the price had escalated to €3000 and before the job was finished the price had soared to an extortionate €5,300. Her mother paid over the money to get rid of them, Mary explained.

“They did some of the job but they kept asking for more. They said we will go now if you pay up and when she said she didn’t have the money, they said they would come back. That is where they have you,” Mary said.

Later that day, the incident was reported to the gardai, sparking an extensive investigation involving door-to-door interviews and by Thursday evening, the men involved had been identified by gardai and the money retrieved.

Supt Tom O’Connor told the Limerick Leader that a file was being prepared and he expected to make arrests and bring charges shortly.

Meanwhile, Mary Cronin said her mother was absolutely delighted to have her savings restored and can now look forward to a happy Christmas.

However, she added, the incident had shaken her mother’s confidence and sense of security.

“She is only realising this week that it could have been worse. It is a lesson learnt.

“We have had a terrific outcome. But for the publicity and the gardai being able to act so quickly, we wouldn’t have had that outcome. We are absolutely thrilled, “ she said.

”The gardai get a raw deal sometimes,” Mary continued. “They rarely get praised. The gardai were very, very good to us. I couldn’t say enough. The garda investigating kept us informed as much as was in his power.”

She was particularly gratified that the incident had sparked media warnings from the gardai, advising people to be more aware. And she had her own advice: don’t take on people you don’t know.

“They can all appear to be good guys. If you need a job done around the house or the garden, ask a neighbour, ask around to see if they have done any work.

“The good guys won’t have any objection to you asking around.”

In her mother’s case, she said, the men did carry out most of the job.

“It was a new version of an old scam,” she said.

More often than not, she felt, people are threatened into paying up beforehand and the job is never done.

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