A Romanian man has been sentenced to four years in prison for blackmailing a priest and extorting €15,000 from him, while his wife has received a suspended sentence.
Petre Zsiga and his Irish wife Margaret, who live at Knocknacarra, in Galway, both pleaded guilty at Galway Circuit Court to blackmailing Fr Brendan Lawless, the parish priest of Portumna, in 2005.
The court was told by Sgt Dathai Cronin that Margaret Zsiga had gone to Fr Lawless house with a bottle of wine and a flag and followed him from his living room to a bedroom.
The Sergeant said she was carrying a camera concealed in a bag and attempted to video him but it only recorded sound and not pictures.
He said she had offered Fr Lawless sexual relations but he had made it clear to her that he did not want to have a sexual affair with her.
A few days later however Margaret Zsiga told Fr Lawless that she had an incriminating video of the priest and would go to the press unless he paid her €14,500.
Fr Lawless paid over the money, but denied to gardaí that he had a sexual affair with her.
He then handed the tape over to the gardaí thinking that Mrs Zsiga had left the country. However she returned six months later a demanded a further €10,000.
This was not paid over and the gardaí arrested Mr and Mrs Zsiga shortly afterwards.
Judge Raymond Groarke said they were guilty of a very heinous crime in setting up Fr Lawless.
He added that Fr Lawless was very brave to come forward because of the insinuations that might be drawn despite his insistence that he had refused point blank to become involved with Mrs Zsiga.
Petre Zsiga was given a four-year sentence the last two years to be suspended. His wife was given a four-year suspended sentence.