A CAPPAMORE man is at the loss of thousands of euro after he was the victim of an elaborate scam which was carried out by criminals using the Done Deal website.
On November 10, last Edward McCarthy paid €7,800 in cash for a 10-G registered silver Toyota Corolla which he saw advertised on the popular website.
However, unknown to Mr McCarthy, the vehicle had been bought from its original owner just hours earlier by criminals who had used a fraudulent bank draft.
During a Police Property Application, Limerick Court heard the original owner of the car - Serena Silke - had sold it for €14,500.
She told the court she had bought it 12 months earlier for €16,000 and believed she had sold it for a “fair price”.
She said she advertised the car on DoneDeal.ie a number of days earlier and agreed to sell it after being contacted by a named representative of “Butterly Cars” in Dublin.
She said she met another representative of the company in the car park of a Galway Hotel on the morning of November 10 and handed over the car, log book and keys.
However, it wasn’t until the following day - after Mr McCarthy had bought the car - that she realised the bank draft was fake.
“I was duped completely,” she told Mr McCarthy’s solicitor Gerry Kingston.
Ms Silke immediately made a complaint to gardai and the court heard the Department of Transport was also alerted.
In his evidence, Mr McCarthy said he contacted the seller by phone shortly after he saw the advertisement at around lunchtime on November 10 and agreed to meet him later that day.
He said the man he spoke to identified himself as “Johnny” and originally asked for €8,600.
However, after some negotiation, a price of €7,800 was agreed.
Mr McCarthy told the court he met another man - a foreign national - after travelling from Cappamore to a petrol station on the outskirts of Naas.
The meeting took place at around 5.50pm and he said he took possession of the car after taking it for a short test drive.
The witness said he checked the chassis number, the log book and took a photograph of the seller’s driving licence before handing over the cash.
He added that he had been given all of the original keys to the car by the seller.
“I bought the car in good faith, I done everything I could do,” he told the court.
Mr McCarthy added that he put the car through the NCT even though it is not due until next February.
Being cross examined by Ms Silke’s solicitor, Ted McCarthy, Mr McCarthy accepted that the car had been “taken improperly” from Ms Silke.
Judge Eugene O’Kelly was told the car was subsequently located by gardai in Thurles, County Tipperary on November 27, and that it has been in the possession of gardai since.
Investigating gardai have spoken with both Mr McCarthy and Ms Silke and they have viewed CCTV footage from both the hotel in Galway and the petrol station in Naas.
Inspector Seamus Ruane said investigations are ongoing and that the purpose of the court application was to facilitate the return of the vehicle to its lawful owner.
However, he said as both parties were claiming ownership of the car, it was a matter for the court to adjudicate on.
Handing down his ruling, the judge said he accepted the evidence of both Ms Silke and Mr McCarthy which he described as “honest and truthful”.
He said he had sympathy for their predicaments and commented that the case highlighted the dangers of dealing with individuals purporting to be legitimate car dealers and meeting them at locations other than at their business premises.
“Both have been the victim of a classic confidence trick,” he said.
Finding that Ms Silke was the owner of the car, the judge said the “first principles of law” applied in the case.
“There can be no transfer of legitimate ownership based on a fraud,” he said.
The judge commented that even though Mr McCarthy had purchased the car in good faith and had taken proper precautions on the day he was “was not entitled to the same protection” as he would have been had he bought it from a legitimate car dealership.
“The loss falls on the last person on the chain of deception,” he said adding that had Mr McCarthy not been so vigilant he may have found himself before the court charged with handling stolen property.
After ruling that Serena Silke was the lawful owner of the Toyota Corolla, Judge O’Kelly ordered that gardai return it to her as soon as possible.