Pretend Irish Water worker preyed on elderly people

Barrister says it was stupid to claim to be from utility, as it struggles to gather money

A man who pretended he was an Irish Water employee called to the homes of elderly people in Co Kerry demanding money for metre and machinery work, the Circuit Criminal Court has heard.

A man who pretended he was an Irish Water employee called to the homes of elderly people in Co Kerry demanding money for metre and machinery work, the Circuit Criminal Court has heard.

 

A man who pretended he was an Irish Water employee called to the homes of elderly people in Co Kerry demanding money for meter and machinery work, the Circuit Criminal Court has heard.

Patrick O’Brien (32) warned a woman (92) in January 2014 that she faced extra charges from the utility firm unless she paid him €3,500. She accompanied him to a bank in Tralee to withdraw the money but staff alerted gardaí and he fled the scene, the court was told.

O’Brien, a father of one from Convent Road, Abbeyfeale, Co Limerick, was driving a small white van when he called to the homes of the three people he targeted, all of whom were living alone.

Since his visits in January 2014 they have all lived in fear, the court heard.

In a second incident, O’Brien called to the home of an 80-year-old woman near Killorglin and asked for money to install a metre. She gave him money and he also took her purse with €500 in it. A number of other men were with him and went through her bedroom, said Tom Rice for the prosecution.

When the woman’s brother arrived to check on her, one of the men told him they were digging for worms to go fishing. He took down part of registration of a white 05 Clare registered van.

In a third incident, O’Brien called to the home of a man (78) at Keel, Castlemaine and introduced himself as an employee of Irish Water. He said he was to be paid for a large machine which was coming to undertake work.

“He tricked him into paying over €500 which he believed was a lawful payment to the utility,” Det Garda Joe Ryan said.

O’Brien left when the man began asking for receipts.

After being arrested by gardaí in Abbeyfeale, O’Brien made admissions during his eight interview.

Dishonesty offences

Mr Rice said O’Brien had “ a considerable number” of dishonesty offences and had 34 previous convictions. He had “no work history”and had been in receipt of social welfare. The cash had been “divvied up” among three men.

Barrister Brian McInerney accepted his client’s behaviour was “disgraceful” but said it was not the actions of anyone with great brain power - and it was stupid to pretend to be from Irish Water, a utility that found it difficult to extract money from the Irish public. No violence had been involved.

O’Brien had pleaded guilty at an early stage to three counts - deception, trespass and theft of cash, he said.

His client had a gambling addiction and was turning his life around. He handed in a testimonial from a supervisor of the kitchen at Portlaoise Prison where O’Brien was working while in custody.

Judge Thomas O’Donnell said it was a despicable crime and went beyond the theft of money.

“It involves the violation of homes, and blow to independence...It is quite clear the accused and his comrades singled out elderly, vulnerable people and cajoled them with a lie,” Judge O’Donnell said.

The judge said he would not rush into the matter- the accused was serving a lengthy sentence — and adjourned sentencing to December remanding him in custody until then.