Woman (76) lived in fear of brothers who stole €205,000 from her
Quantity surveyor valued work done by Thomas and Michael Coen at some €10,000
The woman, who can no longer live independently and is waiting for a place in a care home, told gardaí she handed over her life savings to the men because she feared for her life. Photograph: Getty/File
Two brothers have been sentenced to six years in prison for their roles in the theft of an estimated €205,000 from a reclusive woman.
Thomas Coen (46) and Michael Coen (38), of Corrib Park, Newcastle, Galway, pleaded guilty to a combined 61 counts of theft from the woman (76) between June 2014 and November 2015.
The Coens carried out inferior work in the woman’s home and garden inflating the prices they charged while demanding payment on an almost daily basis over 18 months until gardaí were alerted, Galway Circuit Criminal Court heard.
The woman, who can no longer live independently and is waiting for a place in a care home, told gardaí she handed over her life savings to the men because she feared for her life. She said she was too ashamed to inform her family of what was happening.
“I was afraid of my life of them, they are big men . . . I knew they were codding me up to my eyeballs,” the woman said in her victim impact statement, adding that she was going through a bad time back then after the death of her mother.
Thomas Coen pleaded guilty to 30 theft charges and Michael Coen pleaded guilty to eight sample charges from the remaining 31 charges.
The brothers accepted €205,000 had been stolen but said they only took about €80,000 for themselves and that others were also involved in the scam.
Over 60 transactions
Garda David Foley said Thomas Coen operated a maintenance company and called to the woman in 2013 offering to do work around her house.
She declined then but accepted his help a year later when he called as she realised she was no longer able to maintain the property herself.
He initially charged €200 to €300 per visit but the price rose into the thousands as time went by, Garda Foley said, adding that one of the brothers would “call to the woman on an almost daily basis collecting payments”.
Gardaí were alerted in November 2015 to the fact that “vast sums of money” were leaving the woman’s bank account and going to the brothers. . There were 61 transactions between June 2014 and November 2015, amounting to €205,230.
Garda Foley got a quantity surveyor to assess the work the brothers had carried out at the woman’s property and he valued it at just €10,063.
Conal McCarthy, barrister for Thomas Coen, said his client wanted to apologise to the woman and he had brought €1,500 compensation into court. He suggested his client was willing to repay €500 a week to the woman if given the opportunity. He said his client was no longer able to operate his maintenance business due to reportage surrounding the case.
Michael Clancy BL, for Michael Coen, said his client had brought €500 to court and if given time he would make regular €500 repayments to the woman. Mr Clancy said his client was looking for a chance “to work off his debt to the woman and to society”.
Judge Rory McCabe said the two men engaged, possibly with others, in the systematic, pre-meditated and nasty harassment of an elderly woman. Both, he said, had previous convictions for crimes of dishonesty. The judge said that other victims of their criminality would likely be the sources of the future compensation being offered.
Taking their guilty pleas into account, the judge said the appropriate sentence was six years in each case. Following submissions from the defence, he suspended the final 18 months of each sentence for five years.