A former solicitor has been jailed for three-and-a-half years for theft and fraud offences totalling over €750,000.

David O’Shea, of Parkmore Drive, Terenure in Dublin, stole over €450,000 from clients' accounts to buy cars, pay off his credit card, pay for property transactions, pay a horse trainer and to give to other people.

He also fraudulently used another €327,000.

The offences took place over a six-year period and as a result the company he worked for, O’Donovan Solicitors, closed down.

O' Shea began stealing four months after he joined the firm on Capel Street in Dublin, as a salaried partner.

From September 2002 until he was caught in February 2008 he stole over €452,000 - €380,000 of which he spent on himself.

Fraud detectives discovered he stole €276,000 from one account alone from the estate of John Price, a garage owner from Roundwood, Co Wicklow who died suddenly without leaving a will.

O'Shea, who was not addicted to alcohol, drugs or gambling, only explained the reason behind one theft.

He claimed he stole over €80,000 after he was threatened by Giovanni di Stefano, an Italian man who claimed to be a lawyer and represented convicted drug dealer John Gilligan.

He said Mr Di Stefano phoned him and told him he had two lovely daughters but he would not have them any longer if he did not give the Italian €80,000.

However, the judge said today he should have reported this to gardaí and as an officer of the court he would have known this.

O' Shea also admitted giving another €250,000 to one client, which should have been used to pay off that man's Bank of Ireland mortgage, and paying another client's legal bills of €79,000.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring said this was not a one off and the 45-year-old does not seem to appreciate the distress caused and the damage done.

Five people lost their jobs when the company closed and two solicitors could no longer work because they could not get insurance.

O'Shea was sentenced four years in prison with the final six months suspended.