A 71-year-old former official with the Irish League of Credit Unions has been given until next April to repay an outstanding balance of almost €20,000 which he stole from a west Cork credit union.
Matthew Heffernan, of Vereker Gardens, Ennis Road, Limerick, a field officer with the ILCU, pleaded guilty to six counts of deception at Berehaven Credit Union in Castletownbere between 2004 and 2009.
On Wednesday at Cork Circuit Criminal Court, Det Garda DJ O'Shea told how Heffernan had obtained loans from Berehaven Credit Union by deception in the name of his son, Liam Heffernan without his son's knowledge.
Det Garda O’Shea said that when Liam Heffernan found out what was going on, he went to Limerick Garda station to make a complaint stating that his father had been obtaining loans in his name without his knowledge.
Det Garda O’Shea said the first loan obtained by Matthew Heffernan in his son’s name was for €99,000 but this was repaid. Further sums were obtained in the form of refinancing and the outstanding amount was about €35,000.
In obtaining the money using his son’s name, Matthew Heffernan left instructions with other family members that: “If anyone is looking for Liam [his son], say they don’t know him and hang up.”
Defence barrister Alan O’Dwyer said his client had co-operated fully with gardaí and made frank admissions when interviewed about the deceptions which had been of great assistance in the investigation.
He said that Heffernan had already repaid some €16,000 of the €35,000 that he had stolen and that he was determined to pay the outstanding balance of €19,000 if given the opportunity to do so.
Mr O’Dwyer said his client was in poor health but was managing to make repayments in the order of €1,000 per month and if the matter was put back for a period, he would make further inroads in repaying the stolen money.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said after hearing the evidence, he doubted if “anyone really knew what was going on due to his position” but he questioned whether, given his poor health, Heffernan was a suitable candidate for prison.
The judge adjourned sentencing until April 23rd to allow Heffernan “put his best foot forward” in relation to compensation and he said he would see if sentencing could be finalised at that stage.