A Co Cork horse breeder, who dishonestly induced a 95-year old Kerry man into withdrawing €70,000 of his savings from his bank account, was today given a two-year suspended jail sentence.
Patrick Hurley, 73, from Carhoogarriff, Leap, Co Cork, had earlier been found guilty by a jury at Tralee Circuit Court, sitting in Limerick, of two counts of deception, involving sums totaling €70,000 from the victim, Eugene O’Sullivan, from Kenmare.
Mr Hurley was convicted of dishonestly and with the intention of making gain for himself or another, by a deception of falsely stating that monies deposited in Mr O’Sullivan’s bank account were not secure, and did thereby induce the victim to withdraw €20,000 on December 14th, 2016, and €50,000, on March 15th, 2017
The jury had acquitted Mr Hurley of theft of the €70,000 which he induced Mr O’Sullivan to withdraw from his account at Bank of Ireland, Kenmare.
Mr Hurley, a widower, farmer, and horse breeder, had denied all four counts, however, today the court heard he now fully accepts the jury’s verdict in relation to all of the four charges.
Mr O’Sullivan, who is believed to be the oldest drover in Ireland, was duped by Mr Hurley into withdrawing cash from his account, on the false premise that his bank was on the verge of collapsing, it was heard.
Judge Tom O’Donnell said Mr O’Sullivan had worked all his life and had saved €400,000.
The judge said that, in November 2016, Mr Hurley “befriended” Mr O’Sullivan and “persuaded him that his money was at risk, telling him the banks were failing, which caused the victim serious alarm”.
Mr O’Sullivan immediately contacted his bank wishing to withdraw his entire savings, but was informed he should contact a solicitor before withdrawing such a large amount.
The victim instructed a solicitor to write to the bank on his behalf seeking the funds, and eventually withdrew a total of €70,000.
The court heard that upon exiting the bank on each occasion, Mr O’Sullivan put the money into Mr Hurley’s jeep, which had been waiting outside the bank nearby, and then both men drove off in the defendant’s vehicle.
Judge O’Donnell said the solicitor had “acted with integrity” throughout, and that Mr Hurley had led the solicitor to believe he was closely related to Mr O’Sullivan, when in fact the two men are not related.
The judge commended gardai for their “swift actions” and also praised Tom Keane and Conor Brosnan of Bank of Ireland, Kenmare, for alerting detectives after they became suspicious, and added, “Tom Keane and Conor Brosnan deserve full credit for their duty of care to Mr O’Sullivan and their vigilance in the matter”.
Mr Hurley’s barrister Brian McInerney, said his client had arranged a €10,000 bank draft to be paid to Mr O’Sullivan.
Seeking a non-custodial sentence, Mr McInerney asked the court to consider his client’s age, his offer of compensation, and the fact that his client’s “reputation has already been tarnished”.
Imposing a two-year sentence, which he fully suspended for a period of two years, Judge O’Donnell said Mr Hurley’s actions were “cold, cunning, calculated, and premeditated”.
He ordered a sum of €10,000 be paid to Mr O’Sullivan “without prejudice of any civil claim that the victim may have in the future”.
He described it as an “extraordinary case”, noting Mr Hurley “arranged legal advice for the victim on a false premise, pretending to be related to him” and he had “shepherded the victim to and from the bank and legal consultations, but he never went inside the bank”.
The court heard Mr O’Sullivan has not seen the cash since, and no details were giving as to what became of it.
Mr O’Sullivan, who turns 96 next month, had told gardai that he felt “very foolish that he was so easily deceived”, and that he had worked all his life and had always been very careful about his financial affairs.
He said he found it “very stressful” to have had to go to court and give evidence in the trial.
Judge O’Donnell noted Mr O’Sullivan, who had been “widely known for his age and agility in marts in Kenmare” was presently not working, and had become “somewhat reclusive”.
He said he hoped this was, perhaps, because Mr O’Sullivan was socially distancing, due to COVID-19, and not because of what happened.
Praising Mr O’Sullivan, the judge said: “I admire his courage, and despite his age, coming to court to give evidence”.
Mr Hurley, who used a walking aid and wore a face mask, left the court silently and accompanied by a male who also wore a face mask.