Former FF councillor Gary O’Flynn jailed for theft
Financial advisor given three-year term for obtaining money by deception from builder
Former city councillor Gary O’Flynn who had denied obtaining money from clients by deception. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
A former Fianna Fáil councillor convicted of theft when working as a financial advisor has been jailed for 12 months by a judge who said he was guilty of a huge breach of trust.
Gary O’Flynn (39) with an address at Hayfield Drive, Castle Court, Whitechurch, Co Cork was convicted in May of 13 sample counts of obtaining sums totalling €1,000 by deception.
Today at Cork Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Sean Ó Donnabháin said he had to impose a jail term and he sentenced O’Flynn to three years in jail but suspended the last two years.
Judge Ó Donnabháin recalled the evidence of builder, Eric Higgins who told how he had suffered two strokes and been forced to sell his house after he got into financial difficulty.
Mr Higgins had gone to see O’Flynn who was working with a company called Debt Assist who charged him €50 for a consultation and offered to restructure his debts with two banks.
O’Flynn arranged for Mr Higgins to pay €40 a week to one financial institution and €22.50 a week to another with both sums to be paid into a bank account nominated by O’Flynn.
In January 2012, Mr Higgins received solicitors’s letters from both financial institutions to whom he owed money, saying they had received no payments. (??)
Mr Higgins contacted O’Flynn who said he was no longer involved in that type of business and referred him to solicitor John Henchion who advised him to contact the gardaí.
Det Garda Mick Horgan of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation had earlier told the court Mr Higgins paid over a total of €6,272 to O’Flynn between 2009 and 2012.
Last week, O’Flynn’s father, former Fianna Fail Cork North Central TD, Noel O’Flynn took the stand to apologise to Mr Higgins for the distress his son had caused him by his actions.
Mr O’Flynn pleaded for leniency for his son, whom he said had “crashed” when studying to become a solicitor but he later resumed his studies and qualified a solicitor in 2004.
He also qualified as a financial advisor but they noticed a change in his personality in 2009 when he began to act irrationally and he was diagnosed with a serious depressive disorder.
Today Mr Higgins rejected O’Flynn’s apology saying that O’Flynn had sniggered at him when he was in the witness box and only expressed remorse after he was convicted.
Mr Higgins said the media had reported last week that O’Flynn had since paid over €6,272 to him in compensation but said this was not compensation but rather the repayment of monies O’Flynn had stolen from him.
Judge O Donnabhain said it would have difficult to find someone more stressed than Mr Higgins when he went to O’Flynn for help after falling into debt and selling his house.
He noted Mr Higgins said it was no longer about the money and said that what struck him most was the breach of trust by O’Flynn with a desperate man who had come to him for help.
“He was in despair, he went to you and he relied on you, he was in extremis - at this stage, it’s not about the money as Mr Higgins says, it’s about the breach of trust, “ said Judge Ó Donnabháin.
O’Flynn had presented himself as a financial advisor. His defence was he had taken the monies from Mr Higgins as legal fees for his advice as a solicitor but this was not the case, the court heard.
He noted a submission from defence barrister, Tom Power BL that O’Flynn had given an undertaking never to work as a solicitor again and that was as it should be, he said.
He noted O’Flynn’s evidence from the box when he said that it was Mr Higgins who should be in the dock for expecting to get services from him gratis and he described that as “bizarre”.
He said since O’Flynn’s conviction on May 28th and his remand in custody pending sentence, there appeared to be a change of mind and he had admitted his wrong doing.
He noted from a detailed psychiatric report that O’Flynn suffered from a serious depressive disorder and that may have been a factor in his lack of remorse for his victim.
Judge Ó Donnabháin sentenced O’Flynn to three years in jail but suspended the final two years on condition he is of good behaviour and backdated the sentence to when he first went into custody in May.