An elderly lady has been left financially ruined and fearful after being befriended, deceived, and cruelly swindled out of nearly €390,000 from her savings, the Galway Circuit Court heard this week.
The court heard last Tuesday that the woman, a widow living alone, had truly believed that the fraudsters had been “angels from heaven” after they had conned her into believing that they would help her make a profit from the purchase of land. They also exploited her vulnerability by claiming to have visions of her deceased brother, and one of them who said he also suffered from cancer even brought a faith healer to the house. However, she did not receive the promised land as the two brothers went about taking money from her bank account, in the form of cheques and ATM withdrawals.
Conor Murphy (42 ) of 116 Castlepark, Ballybane, pleaded guilty to six counts, out of 34 charges, of making unlawful gain by deception while his brother, James Murphy (46 ) of 8 West End, Mallow, Cork, pleaded guilty to two counts of making unlawful gain by deception.
Giving evidence, Detective Sgt Martin Flynn said that the Murphy brothers had “exploited” the elderly lady by using various deceptions which included the purchase of 35 acres of land in Moycullen for €150,000, but that the men did not have any claim or title to this land.
The court heard that the woman had been from a farming family in Oranmore who had lost their land to financial institutions in the 1970s. The now 71-year-old woman was then left with four to five acres of this property which was sold in 2006 for €3.2 million. Half was given to her son while the remainder was stored in two bank accounts and used for the purchase of a house in Craughwell. It was when she moved to her new home that she was introduced to the Murphys by a former neighbour who had told the men of her sale proceeds.
Det Sgt Flynn told the court that between December 22, 2006, and October 9, 2007 Conor Murphy had lodged 49 cheques, totalling €367,100, into his bank account. He then said that before Conor Murphy had lodged the cheques his account had a balance of €14,479. From October 2007 to April 2008 no lodgements were made and his bank account balance was at €2.58. Between December 15, 2006, and October 26, 2007, the injured party’s ATM card had been used to withdraw money on 58 occasions. Det Sgt Flynn said that on 18 days out of 36 the card had been used more than once each day to withdraw more than €11,000 and that this occurred while the injured party was hospitalised. Det Sgt Flynn added that, when arrested, Conor Murphy denied any wrongdoing and said that he had withdrawn the money and given it to the injured party.
Det Sgt Flynn said that in October 2007 James Murphy convinced the injured party to withdraw €13,500 in cash from her account, saying that it was to bail Conor out of prison. The same excuse was used in November 2007 when James brought the injured party into Galway city to withdraw €15,000. Det Sgt Flynn said that the woman had been recovering from an operation and had a large number of stitches. After withdrawing the money James heartlessly left her there to make her own way home to Craughwell.
The court heard that James swindled €28,500 from the woman while Conor had taken €361,000 by lodging cheques and that the money is gone.
Det Sgt Flynn explained that the woman had been aggrieved by the loss of her family land and had felt that she had been done out of €120,000 by developers. The Murphy brothers used this information and promised to get back that money for her.
“She really believed that she had met two angels from heaven,” said Det Sgt Flynn. “Conor and James used deceptions, they told stories, and knew about the land that was lost,” said Det Sgt Flynn who added that they also promised to “deal” with the developer who acquired a portion of the family land, that they had IRA connections to the point that they “were going to use the services of the Border Fox”. It was at this point the woman became fearful.
Describing the effects that this incident has had on the injured party, Det Sgt Flynn said, “She is financially ruined, she only has her pension. She has no other asset except her house... She is shattered and broken since. She feels she has lost everything, even her pride. She will carry this to her grave”.
The court then heard that the accused men, natives of Galway city, were both fathers, are in receipt of disability allowance, and have a previous conviction for larceny.
Defence counsel for James Murphy, Paul Flannery SC, said that his client, who suffers from depression, had been living in a dilapidated mobile home in Ballinahown, Connemara, at the time of his arrest. Defence counsel for Conor Murphy, Bernard Madden SC, then asked for the matter to be put back for sentencing to allow time for the preparation of a psychiatric and medical report. Judge Raymond Groarke adjourned the matter to January 13 next.