Man sentenced for stealing over €12,000 from Govt dept

Updated / Wednesday, 13 Nov 2019 14:31

Ciarán McDonagh has been sentenced to four years in prison, with one year suspended

A former Community Welfare Officer has been sentenced to four years in prison, with one year suspended, after pleading guilty to stealing thousands of euro from the Department of Social Protection.

Ciarán McDonagh, from Cill Chiaráin in Connemara, initially denied a total of 110 counts of theft and fraud, totalling an estimated €140,000.

He subsequently pleaded guilty to 26 sample charges, for sums totalling €12,360.

Galway Circuit Criminal Court heard these related to the fraudulent cheques the 60-year-old had written to a bogus plumber, between June 2009 and January 2012.

McDonagh's co-accused, 69-year-old Tim Gannon, from Lus Leana, Headford Road, Galway city, pleaded guilty before the court in 2016, to 11 sample counts of theft from the Department of Social Protection.

He received a suspended three-year prison sentence earlier this year for his part in the scam. The court heard he was not the brains behind the fraud, had very serious medical conditions and was spending most of his time in hospital.

Gannon was an unregistered plumber in receipt of social welfare benefit who carried out shoddy work on behalf of the accused.

Detective Sergeant Colm McDonagh said Ciarán McDonagh issued cheques to Gannon over a protracted period of time for work and services which, for the most part, were either not carried out at all on homes in Connemara or were totally substandard when they were done.

Sgt McDonagh said in many instances people had applied to McDonagh for genuine repairs to be carried out to their homes but he had refused their applications. He had then issued bogus invoices, forging people’s names, for the work which was never carried out and had issued cheques for the work to Gannon.

These were then cashed in various post offices, with the proceeds split between the two men.

The fraud came to light when a member of staff at Inverin Post Office noticed the numerous cheques Gannon was cashing and reported him to the Department of Social Protection.

It carried out its own investigation before contacting gardaí.

The court heard McDonagh had been employed as a community welfare officer since 1978 and had also been a rent collector for Galway County Council. He denied any part in the scam over ten garda interviews but subsequently admitted his role.

Judge Rory McCabe said the accused had been entrusted with the management of taxpayers' money and there had been a serious breach of that trust over a protracted period of time.

He said the appropriate sentence in this case was four years in prison with the final year suspended on all of the charges, with each of the sentences to run concurrently.

Judge McCabe said he was suspending the final year of the sentence given McDonagh’s age and his previous good record.