A man who stole cheques from a neighbour’s home and used them to spend over €20,000 in paying off debts and to buy himself a horsebox has been sentenced to three years in prison with two years suspended.
Simon O’Dwyer, with an address at Garrue, Knocklyon, Kilkenny pleaded guilty to four counts of burglary, three counts of theft, one count of forgery, one count of using a false instrument and one count of deception.
Kilkenny Circuit Court heard the offences occurred between June 2015 and November of 2015 at a property in Mullinavat when Judge Patrick Meghen said Mr O’Dwyer “took advantage of the trust of an elderly man”.
Giving evidence, Detective Garda Bridget Goode, told the court that the victim became aware his cheques were being used when his niece was told by a shop owner that the business had received two of the victim’s cheques which did not show the true signature.
The complainant, who lives in the Mullinavat area, then looked at his last four chequebooks at his home and took the view that a “number of cheques had been stolen”. They were taken from the back.
In May of 2016, Gardaí received all the relevant documentation with regard to the victim’s account and the activity was analysed and the authorities were able to identify cheques fraudulently assigned.
Mr O’Dwyer was arrested in relation to the offences by appointment in July of 2016 and made admissions in relation to the case.
A search of his home found nothing of evidential value but he gave a cautioned statement on the matters. In interviews with Gardaí, Mr O’Dwyer said: “I know I shouldn’t have done this. It’s a mess.”
Mr O’Dwyer had without permission gone into the victim’s house and removed cheques and then forged the victim’s signature, the court heard.
There was no evidence of a break-in at the victim’s home.
The complainant would have people working on his farm and when he would leave the house he would leave the door open for workers and that’s when Mr O’Dwyer saw an opportunity.
The victim suffered a loss of €20,596. Mr O’Dwyer was known to the victim and lived close by. He pleaded guilty to the offences but none of the money was recovered.
The complainant, an elderly man, was not in court but a Victim Impact Statement was read out on his behalf. The court heard that as a result of the burglary he installed a CCTV security system at a cost of over €600 and said: “I fear for my own personal safety.”
He is confined to his home and only leaves it for short periods of time.
The victim’s sleep has been affected and before the theft he was “carefree around the house and farm” and now has constant concerns.
The victim said the burglary made it necessary for family and friends to visit more frequently as he described himself as “a vulnerable 86-year-old man”.
The court heard Mr O’Dwyer was under pressure for money at the time of the offences and “thought it was a way out of a problem but only caused a bigger problem”.
In interviews, Mr O’Dwyer said: “I wish the ground could swallow me up. I’m ashamed of myself.” He went into the victim’s home on four or five occasions cause he knew the victim would not be there at night-time, the court heard.
Each time he stole a number of cheques from the back of the chequebook on the mantelpiece.
Mr O’Dwyer - who is an amateur horse breeder - used the money on some personal expenses but mainly used it for business costs.
The court heard he spent the money on vet fees; feed; a horse box was purchased; some work was done to his house; electricity bills were paid and he purchased diesel with some of the monies from the cheques.
He has 26 previous convictions which include animal cruelty and allowing carcases to remain on his land. Judge Meghen said the crimes had “quite an effect” on the victim who is now 86-years-old.
“He fears for his safety and his confined to his house and his sleep is affected,” Judge Meghen added.
The judge noted that no violence during the incidents brings the case to the lower end of the scale as well as the defendant co-operating with Gardaí and his early plea, but nevertheless the case attracted a custodial sentence, he said.
Judge Meghen sentenced Mr O’Dwyer to three years in prison but suspended the last two on the condition that the defendant enter into a bond to keep the peace and engages with the Probation Services and undergoes a course to explore the underlying attitudes that led to the offending behaviour.
The court granted a stay on the execution of the warrant to allow Mr O’Dwyer get his affairs in order at home.
He must present himself to a Garda Station in Kilkenny by this Friday.