Man jailed for gay blackmail scam where victim was forced to hand over €7,500

Accused threatened to report victim to gardaí for sending texts to a fictitious underage relative unless he handed over money

Neil Duggan also pleaded guilty to threatening to kill the injured party and with threatening to cause criminal damage to his property by burning down his house and caravan. Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

Neil Duggan also pleaded guilty to threatening to kill the injured party and with threatening to cause criminal damage to his property by burning down his house and caravan. Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

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A 46-year-old man who set up a gay blackmail scam which he used to force a 60-year-old man to hand over €7,500 in cash has been jailed for 18 months by a judge who described his demands for money as “outrageous”.

Painter, Neil Duggan from Riverside Rise, Rushbrooke, Cobh, Co Cork had pleaded guilty earlier this year to a total of four charges when he appeared at Cork Circuit Criminal Court following the Garda investigation into the gay blackmail scam.

Duggan had pleaded guilty to demanding €2,500 with menaces from the victim at Spur Hill in Co Cork on April 11th, 2017 and to a second charge of demanding €5,000 with menaces from the same victim at the Topaz Filing Station in Douglas some two days later.

He also pleaded guilty to threatening to kill the injured party and with threatening to cause criminal damage to his property by burning down his house and caravan when he met him in the car park of the Silver Quay pub in Ballinlough on April 17th, 2017.

Det Garda Gary Duggan told the court how the victim had gone to a gay website, fabguy.com looking for a male companion and he linked up with someone whom he believed to be over 18 and arranged by text message to meet them in Cobh on April 11th, 2017.

However, when the man arrived in Cobh, he was confronted by Duggan, who accused him of sending messages to a fictitious underage relative of Duggan’s and he demanded that he drive him to Cobh Garda Station where he was going to report the matter to gardaí.

En route to Cobh Garda Station, Duggan told him that he would not proceed with his complaint if the man handed over €2,500. They drove to the man’s house where he gave Duggan the money. Then Duggan demanded a further €5,000. The victim handed over that money two days later at the Topaz filling station in Douglas. Four days later, Duggan contacted the injured party and met him at the car park of the Silver Quay pub in Ballinlough where he demanded a further €10,000 and said he would burn down his house and caravan and that the victim would get a bullet if he didn’t hand over the money.

The man drove straight to Togher Garda Station after leaving Duggan and reported the threats and blackmail to gardaí. Detectives obtained CCTV footage from both the Topaz Garage and the Silver Quay pub car park which they used to identify Duggan, said Det Garda Duggan.

Neil Duggan was arrested and questioned and he later entered guilty pleas to all four offences in two stages and he had repaid €3,800 to the injured party but the balance of €3,700 remained outstanding, Det Garda Duggan told the court.

Defence barrister, Brendan Kelly BL said that his client was suffering from a severe gambling addiction at the time but he had been going for counselling and was now doing well and was hoping for more time to repay the balance of the money.

Duggan apologised to the court for his actions and for the hurt and pain he had caused his victim as well as the shame that he had brought upon his own family but he said that at the time, he was so absorbed in his gambling, he scarcely thought he was doing anything wrong.

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said that Duggan’s guilty plea had spared his victim not just the trauma of a trial but also the attendant publicity to which he would have been exposed and that was an important mitigating factor.

However, Duggan had engaged in a level of planning in setting up his fake online profile and that was a serious aggravating factor as was the nature of the threats that he had made against the injured party.

“It was over a limited period of time but the threats were quite outrageous – he took money from this man and then came back for more but it was getting so much out on control, the injured party was in such despair that he went to the gardaí,” he said.

Judge Ó Donnabháin said that notwithstanding the guilty plea, he believed he had to impose a custodial penalty and he sentenced Duggan to three years in jail concurrent on all four charges but suspended the final 18 months, leaving him with 18 months’ jail time to serve.

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