A LEADING property developer who defrauded the ESB has been ordered to pay £30,000 to the St Vincent de Paul Society or go to jail
Patrick J. McGrath, of The Sweepstakes, Ballsbridge, admitted committing the offence at his flats property at 9-11 Nelson Street near Dublin city centre on January 13th, 1993.
Judge Kevin Haugh was told that since he pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court last month, McGrath had repaid £40,000 to the ESB in compensation for electricity which he fraudulently extracted at the premises he has owned since 1979.
Judge Ha ugh told McGrath he was saved from an immediate jail sentence by a combination of his guilty plea, his £40,000 payment to the ESB and by the character reference in evidence from Sgt Pauline Gallagher.
"This was a home industry of some sophistication to defraud the ESB," Judge Haugh said.
If the flats were full or nearly fall the profits accruing to McGrath would have been quite substantial, he said. It was very clear from the evidence that a most sophisticated system had been put in place for the crime.
"The compensation for the ESB merely restores the status quo. You must be punished for this offence", Judge Haugh added.
Mr Tom O'Connell, prosecuting, said the maximum penalty was 10 years' imprisonment and/ or an unlimited fine. McGrath had no previous convictions.
Judge Haugh adjourned sentence to October 8th, 1997, and said McGrath had to pay £30,000 to the St Vincent de Paul Society by then or be jailed. If the money was paid a suspended sentence would be imposed.
Evidence was given by Mr John O'Rourke of the ESB security unit that engineers found three time switches and two electromagnetic relays installed at McGrath's Nelson Street premises. He had operated apartments there since 1979.
McGrath had provided a laundry since 1982 at the rear of 9-11 Nelson Street to which residents of his flats had unlimited access for a fee of £7 per person per month. The flats had a capacity of 54 people.
Mr O'Rourke told Mr O'Connell that unmetered electricity powered the laundry, one flat, and other parts of the property. The laundry had five washing machines and five dryers.
McGrath installed slot meters in the laundry after ESB engineers disconnected the illegal unmetered supply, said Mr O'Rourke.
Sgt Gallagher told Mr Patrick MacEntee SC (with Mr Hugh Hartnett), defending, that she had known the defendant personally for eight years and was amazed and shocked when she learned of this crime.
She said McGrath had never before come under Garda notice and she told Judge Haugh of her personal knowledge of several charitable deeds he had performed for people in need over the years.
Mr MacEntee said his client was a man who had accumulated some wealth with years of hard work. He was thoroughly ashamed of this offence.