Man jailed for theft of life savings from pensioner
Man impersonated garda to steal €28,000 72-year-old had saved for funeral expenses
The pensioner was loading luggage into his car for a pilgrimage when he was approached by a man claiming to be a garda, the Cork Circuit Court heard today.
A 31-year-old man has been jailed for three and a half years after he impersonated a garda and stole €28,000 in life savings from a pensioner who was afraid to put the money into a bank over fears of an Irish financial collapse.
Kenneth Lyons pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to the theft of €28,000 from the 72-year-old man and to impersonating a garda at the man’s home on the northside of Cork city on June 26th 2011.
Judge Sean O’Donnabhain said that it was “an appalling mean crime” which not only led to the injured party becoming a virtual prisoner in his own home but had a similar effect on older people across the community when they heard about it.
Det Garda Aidan Forrest told the court the pensioner had the cash which he had saved up to pay for his funeral expenses stolen when Mr Lyons called to his house just hours before he was due to fly out to Medjugorge on a pilgrimage.
The pensioner was so scared of Irish banks collapsing during the financial crisis that he had withdrawn his life savings from a bank and kept the cash in an envelope upstairs in his house, Det Garda Forrest told the court.
The pensioner was loading luggage into his car for the pilgrimage when he was approached by Mr Lyons, who identified himself as a detective at Gurranebraher Garda Station and told him that they were investigating a number of burglaries in the area.
Lyons told him they were offering to mark any cash held by householders for security reasons, so the pensioner brought Lyons into an upstairs bedroom and showed him an envelope containing €28,000 in €50 notes. Mr Lyons grabbed the cash and ran out of the house.
Gardai in Gurranebraher were alerted and began an investigation which led them to Mr Lyons’s rented house at Willison Meadows in Blarney two days later, where they found €18,900 hidden in two socks, the court heard.
Mr Lyons had also shaved off all his hair in a bid to avoid being identified following extensive media coverage of the theft, but gardai arrested him for questioning and later charged him at Cork District Court on June 30th with the offences.
Mr Lyons, who is originally from Liam Healy Road in Farranree, apologised for his actions. “I am very sorry for what I done - I deeply regret it,” he said, adding that he had fled to the UK because he was afraid of going to jail.
He said he had paid back €9,000 to date, which left just €100 still outstanding to the pensioner. He said since he was in prison, he was getting on well and was receving assistance for a cocaine addiction.
Avictim impact statement described the impact the theft had on the pensioner.
“It had a very bad effect on him. This was money saved up for a rain day. Money for funeral expenses. He has suffered from depression ever since,” the court heard.
Judge O’Donnabhain said that it was a despicable crime where Mr Lyons had deliberated targeted “an elderly man because of his age and his vulnerability” and stole money he had gathered to pay for his funeral.
“I can only imagine the trauma this poor man suffered as a result of this crime; it was an appallingly mean crime to steal this money from a poor man who had kept the money at his home because of his fears that the banks would collapse.”
Judge O’Donnabhain said the case did immense harm to elderly people “who already feel imprisoned in their homes and will be appalled at this case”.
He noted Mr Lyons had pleaded guilty, albeit somewhat late in the day. He said in in the circumstances the appropriate sentence was five years with the last 18 months suspended on condition he be on good behaviour on release.