Gambling addict avoids jail for conning couple out of €17,000

A Wexford gambling addict has avoided a jail term for conning a couple by convincing them that racehorse owner JP McManus would finance their angel sanctuary business.

A Wexford gambling addict has avoided a jail term for conning a couple by convincing them that racehorse owner JP McManus would finance their angel sanctuary business.

Andrew Duff told the Wicklow couple that he was a high-profile business man with "serious connections" to JP McManus, Denis O'Brien and the directors of Setanta. He later stole over €17,000 from them.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that Lorraine Coffey and Eugene O'Connor wanted help in expanding their business from a shop in France, where they live now. The company, called Lorries Angels, sells spiritual items around the idea of angels.

Duff (46) of Kilpatrick, Kyle, Co Wexford pleaded guilty to theft from the couple at AIB, Dun Laoghaire on February 16, 2011.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring described it as "a particularly nasty crime because of the breaches of trust involved".

She said she hopes that Revenue are made aware that the couple was not aware that taxes they had been liable for were not paid over by Duff as the accused had previously agreed.

Judge Ring accepted that Duff had previously led a productive life, that he made admissions and pleaded guilty at an early stage to the offence.

She sentenced Duff to three years in prison but suspended it full on strict conditions including that he hand over €5,500, which he had in court as a token of his remorse, to the couple.

Garda Donal O'Sullivan told Tara Burns BL, prosecuting, that the couple had planned to run the company on a not for profit basis and agreed to take Duff on as an unpaid financial advisor for a year.

The garda said they had 100 percent trust in Duff who told them he hoped to get JP McManus involved. He claimed he drew up a business plan and sent it to Mr McManus.

He claimed to have set up a meeting between the couple and the millionaire but at the last minute showed them an email purporting to be from Mr McManus in which he cancelled the meeting.

The court heard that when later questioned by gardai Mr McManus said he didn't know Mr Duff and had not (NOT) sent the email.

At one stage Duff told the couple they would have to transfer €25,000 in funds to his account which they did in February 2011.

He told them they had to register an employee in Ireland. He later billed them for €2,593 which he said had to be paid in employer's contribution taxes.

When this employee looked for his P45 from the Revenue Commissioners it emerged that Duff had not paid these taxes and the gardai were called in.

Duff was in the middle of a gambling addiction course when gardai arrested him. He told them he was unable to distinguish truth from lies and so he couldn't actually say what he had done.

Gardai found that the €25,000 had been gradually spent over 34 transactions with Paddy Power bookmakers online betting site.

The court heard that the father of three has no previous convictions. He previously had a long and successful business career but this is now in ruins because of his crime.

Orla Crowe BL, defending, said her client feels profound remorse and shame over his actions and wished to apologise to the victims.

Wexford People

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