A man who stole over €500k from a north Longford pensioner received 240 hours community service during a sentence hearing at Longford Circuit Court this week.
PJ Devine, Ballybay, Co Monaghan appeared before Judge Keenan Johnson pleading guilty to four charges that included the theft of £5,000 in November 2000 from Tommy Kyne, Derrycasson, Dring, Co Longford; appropriating a property, valued at £150,000 belonging to Mr Kyne without his consent in 2008 and dishonestly appropriating another property valued at £54,000 in 2004.
Mr Devine also pleaded guilty to stealing £5,000 from another north Longford couple in May 1999.
During this week’s hearing Mr Smith SC for the defendant said his client had been paying €50 per week by direct debit into the estate of Mr Kyne - who died in 2014 - since the last court sitting and he had also provided the estate with €115,000 - the defendant’s share of the proceeds from the sale of the family home in Co Donegal.
During his judgement Judge Johnson said the case before him was “very serious”.
“All of this fed Mr Devine’s gambling addiction and drink problem,” fumed the Judge, before pointing out that the court took on board that the defendant was now sober.
“There is €489k still owing to the estate of Mr Kyne and in reality those monies will never be reimbursed to the victim’s estate; that is a travesty.
Judge Johnson went on to say that the defendant too had suffered as he had lost his home and was now living over a public house in Ballybay.
“It is clear that these offences were as a direct consequence of his addictions and I don’t think that it is in the interest of society or indeed the Kyne family to hand down a custodial sentence in this case,” continued the Judge.
“Mr Devine has been deemed suitable for community service and I am handing down 240 hours in lieu of three years in prison.
“You will be paying this debt off for the rest of your life Mr Devine.”
During a previous hearing in the case, the court heard that Mr Kyne died in 2014 with losses of over €500,000 to his estate.
Outlining the evidence to the court, Mr Shane Geraghty, Counsel for the State said that Mr Kyne had invested a total of €700,000 with the defendant, a former employee of Irish Life, and only ever received, during his lifetime, one payout of €150,000 from the company.
In April 2013 Mr Kyne, who was 80-years-old at the time, told his solicitor Mark Connellan that he had invested sums of money over the years and wanted to get all his financial affairs in order.
Mr Kyne asked his brother John to gather the various receipts and investment reports from Irish Life in respect of those policies but when he did so, it emerged that some of the policies did not exist.
The court also heard that at time Mr Kyne had accumulated investments valued at €625,509 with €150,000 having been paid out by Irish Life.
Detective Garda Jim Donaldson subsequently investigated the matter and discovered investment bonds that appeared to be making money for Mr Kyne, but were in fact not genuine.
Judge Johnson was told that Detective Garda Donaldson later met with four representatives of Irish Life and was informed that Mr Kyne had only ever made one investment with the insurance company and Mr Devine had been employed by Irish Life back in the 1980s but that employment had been terminated in 1998.
The Detective subsequently travelled to Donegal and met with Mr Devine in September 2014.
Mr Devine produced 61 documents in respect of Mr Kyne and was arrested and detained under section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act.
He made full admissions at that point.
The court was then told that during interviews with gardaí, Mr Devine said; “I took the money; I had debts and I used the money to pay those debts. I had intended to pay the money back.”
He also added, “I gambled hard; I drank hard, I wasn’t supporting anyone else”.
The defendant also confirmed that he had designed Irish Life documents and brands on his computer and that he led Mr Kyne to believe they were genuine.
The court also heard that when Mr Devine sold his home place in Aughnacliffe, he drank and gambled away the money and then tried desperately to hid the situation from his wife.
Detective Garda Donaldson told the court that Mr Devine’s marriage has since broken up and he had turned his life around after spending time in Cluain Mhuire.