Two Wexford men sentenced over forged will

Tuesday 26 February 2013 16.11
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Noel Hayes was sentenced to six years in jail, with three suspended and fined €500,000
Noel Hayes was sentenced to six years in jail, with three suspended and fined €500,000
William O'Leary was sentenced to three years in jail, with 18 months suspended, and he was fined €200,000
William O'Leary was sentenced to three years in jail, with 18 months suspended, and he was fined €200,000

Two Wexford men have been given jail sentences for their part in forging the will of a dead farmer.

Noel Hayes, 59, and William O'Leary, 49, both from Wexford, had denied forging the will of bachelor farmer Matthew Hayes.

Mr Hayes died in hospital on Christmas Day 1998. The 82-year-old had left a 160 acre farm and monies, and the estate is today estimated to be worth, with interest, €1.7 million.

Hayes and O'Leary were found guilty unanimously by a jury last month and they were sentenced by Judge Raymond Fullam at Wexford Circuit Court.

Noel Hayes was sentenced to six years in jail, with three suspended and fined €500,000.

William O'Leary was sentenced to three years in jail, with 18 months suspended, and he was fined €200,000.

They were both remanded on bail pending an appeal as the court had earlier heard that a document had been found in the jury room that raised an issue as to the safety of the conviction.

The document, from the State solicitor's office, was found in the jury room by a garda after the trial had finished.

During the trial, the court heard that a third man, Charlie O'Leary, pleaded guilty in 2009 of being involved in the forgery and was given a suspended sentence.

Charlie O'Leary testified against his brother Willie and former best friend Noel Hayes.

Charlie O'Leary gave evidence against the two men after admitting his part in the forgery some years ago, stating all three were involved in forging a will in the name of Matthew Hayes.

In a document purporting to be Mr Hayes' final will and testament, his estate and monies in various accounts were left to his distant relation, Noel Hayes.

In handing down sentence, Judge Fullam described Noel Hayes as the ringleader in the forgery, which the judge described as a serious fraud.

The court heard both men were asset rich and they were ordered to pay the fines by this September.

The judge also ordered the registration of the farm to the county registrar, which may mean the issue of who owns the land may be before the courts again.