A three year sentence with the final 12 months suspended and fines totalling €3,750 were imposed on a Galway plumber who increased his income from €62,000 per annum to almost €1 million in just one year by engaging in revenue fraud.
Presiding at Galway Circuit Criminal Court on Monday, Judge Raymond Groarke described the actions of Justin Sheehan as one of greed rather than necessity resulting in the “bare-faced theft of the people of Ireland”.
The case had been outlined earlier last month after Sheehan (40 ) of Cave, Clarenbridge, Galway, pleaded guilty to making an incorrect VAT return, producing an incorrect invoice knowingly or wilfully and for failing to make income and VAT returns to the Collector General. Evidence was heard that the Office of the Revenue Commissioners had investigated Sheehan’s income and found that it had risen sharply from €62,441 in 2004 to €955,628 in a six month period the following year. When questioned by gardai Sheehan had admitted fabricating invoices and allowing two other men to use his C2 cert in order to collect payment for supplies and thereby receiving commission of €70,000.
When the case resumed this week, defence barrister, Francis Comerford, SC, informed the court that a psychological report had been handed in and asked Judge Groarke to take into account “the destruction he [Sheehan] has brought upon himself” and to allow an opportunity for his client to “work on the restitution” of the money owed.
“The motivation is set out in the psychological report, he was offered the opportunity to make additional money and he took it because he desired the social trappings of being wealthy,” said Judge Groarke who added that there was no comparison in this case to those before the court on social welfare fraud where people got involved in this type of criminal activity due to severe financial hardship or “urgent neccessity”.
“He just got greedy. It wasn’t a crime committed at a time when his circumstances had changed as has happened to many in the economic turmoil. There are hundreds and thousands of people out there that make the choice not to do as he did because they recognise it is wrong.”
Judge Groarke said: “I have no doubt that he is full of remorse, the defendant entered a plea of guilty at the first opportunity which has considerable value, however given the careful investigation it was unavoidable. He was not co-operative at the outset of the investigation and made himself out to be a victim. He is a man of previous good character, however he gave in to temptation which persisted over a period of time. There is a stigmatising factor but those are the consequences of criminal activity freely taken. He destroyed his business, these actions were carried out at a time when his business was thriving. He was trying to get rich quick.”