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CITY TRIBUNE

Brothers conned elderly woman out of more than €200,000

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Two brothers face sentence later this month for stealing over €205,000 from a vulnerable old age pensioner by carrying out bogus repairs to her home over an eighteen-month period.

Thomas Coen (46), with addresses at 181 Corrib Park, Newcastle and Old Monivea Road, Ballybrit, along with his younger brother, Michael Coen (38), 181 Corrib Park, were both arrested and charged in 2017 with 61 counts of theft involving large sums of cash taken from the woman between June 2014 and November 2015.

Prosecuting barrister, Conor Fahy BL, told their sentence hearing before Galway Circuit Criminal Court last week that Thomas Coen pleaded guilty in June of last year to the first thirty charges on dates between June 17 and August 30, 2014.

His younger brother pleaded guilty to eight of the remaining 31 charges involving the theft of cash from the woman at her home on dates between September, 2014 and November, 2015.

Both accepted over €200,000 had been stolen, but said they had taken just €80,000 of it for themselves and that other people were behind the scam as well.

Garda David Foley, prosecuting, said Thomas Coen operated a home and garden maintenance company which he still runs, carrying out tree-topping, power-washing and general maintenance for homeowners.

He said Coen knocked on the then 77-year-old, reclusive woman’s door in 2013 and offered to do work around her house.

She declined, but he called back a year later and she accepted his help then, realising she was no longer able to maintain the property herself.

“He started calling to her home regularly between June and November 2015, initially charging her €200 to €300, but as time went by, the price rose considerably into the thousands,” Garda Foley said.

“He employed his younger brother, Michael, and others to carry out work and both brothers would call on an almost daily basis, collecting payments from the woman,” he explained.

Gardai were alerted in November 2015, that “vast sums of money” were leaving the woman’s bank account and going to the brothers.

With her permission, they examined her bank accounts and tallied the amounts withdrawn with amounts the woman had recorded in her own private accounting journal, each time the brothers were paid.

The court heard there had been 61 transactions between June 2014 and November 2015, amounting to €205,230.

Garda Foley got a quantity surveyor to assess the work the brothers had carried out at the woman’s property and he valued it at just €10,063.

The brothers were arrested and questioned. They admitted carrying out the work and that they had overcharged the woman on every occasion, but they claimed they had received just €80,000.

The court heard Gardaí knew other people were involved in the deception. Others had been arrested and questioned but the Director of Public Prosecution’s office had directed they were not to be prosecuted.

“The Coens remained at the front of the operation and other people stayed in the background and they took the money. They were never ‘face to face’ with the injured party,” Garda Foley said.

He described the woman as a “very vulnerable, reclusive lady”.

He said Thomas Coen had numerous previous convictions for theft and deception, including two similar offences in 2011 and again in 2015, for the theft of cash from two other elderly victims.

Michael Coen, he said, had 61 previous convictions, 54 of which were for motoring offences and others for drug dealing. He also had four previous for forgery and handling stolen goods in 2001.

Mr Fahy said the victim was in frail health and he would need time to obtain a victim impact statement from her.

Judge Rory McCabe agreed to adjourn finalisation of sentence to July 23 to obtain the report.

Mr Paul Flannery SC, who represented Thomas Coen, said his client had brought €4,500 to court for the victim.  His brother, who had recently discharged his legal team, brought €1,050.

Mr Flannery said his client would bring more money to court if given time.

“If it’s the case that more money is to be obtained by any means, should I say ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’, then I will put it back,” Judge McCabe said.

In reply to the judge, Garda Foley confirmed he had taken possession of both men’s passports.

“If they do not show up, they will be pursued and will serve a sentence, whatever they receive,” the judge warned, before adjourning finalisation of sentence.

“I presume they will be working hard between now and then,” the judge added as he watched Michael Coen’s newly-appointed solicitor, Sean Acton, hand in his client’s €1,050 to the court.

CITY TRIBUNE

Gardaí raid cocaine lab in Galway City

Enda Cunningham

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Some of the cash and drugs seized by Gardaí in Galway

Two men have been arrested following a Garda raid in which a cocaine laboratory was discovered in Galway City.

In total, Gardaí seized €178,500 in cash, €50,000 worth of cocaine (subject to analysis) and a number of drug manufacturing components as part of an intelligence-led operation into the sale and supply of drugs in the Galway Garda Division.

At 7.40pm yesterday (Sunday) the Divisional Drugs Unit in Galway stopped and searched a car on the M6 motorway in the vicinity of Loughrea where €17,580 worth of cash was seized.

As part of a follow-up search, Gardaí uncovered what is believed to be a cocaine processing laboratory and seized cocaine (pending analysis) with an estimated value of €50,000 at an address in Galway City.

At this address, Gardaí seized a quantity of mixing agent, a cocaine press, vacuum packer, industrial gas masks, and a cash counting machine, which are believed to have been used in the manufacture of cocaine for sale or supply.

In a further follow-up search, Gardaí seized €161,000 in cash at a separate premises in the city.

One man in his 20s was arrested following the detection on the M6, while a second man in his 30s was arrested at a property in Galway City.

Both men are currently detained at Galway Garda Station under Section 2 of the Criminal Justice (Drugs Trafficking) Act 1996.

These seizures were part of an intelligence led operation and were detected by the Galway Divisional Drugs Unit with the assistance of the Western Regional Armed Support Unit.

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CITY TRIBUNE

“It will be akin to the notorious Rahoon flats”

Enda Cunningham

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The Rahoon flats, which were built in 1972 and demolished in 1998, widely regarded as a failed social housing project.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – More than 700 local residents have signed a petition against plans for the construction of 330 apartments in Knocknacarra – which have been likened to “the notorious Rahoon flats”.

Child safeguarding concerns have also been raised by the principal of Gaelscoil Mhic Amhlaigh – who pointed out that the apartments will look directly into 19 classrooms.

A total of 27 objections were lodged against Glenveagh Living’s plans to build 332 apartments in six blocks – ranging from four storeys to seven storeys in height.

Locals have demanded An Bord Pleanála hold an oral hearing into the plans – that planning authority is due to make a decision by March 20, although it can decide to hold such a hearing first.

A computer-generated image of the Glenveagh plans for the site opposite Gort na Bró and beside Gaelscoil Mhic Amhlaigh.

One of the objections – which accuses the developer of designing “tenement style” homes in a “blatant attempt to profiteer from the housing crisis” – was signed by more than 700 local residents.

Another objector said the development was “akin to the notorious Rahoon flats, with people being packed on top of each other”.

Locals have raised concerns about the huge number of apartments planned; overshadowing of homes; inadequate open space, playing pitches and community infrastructure; parking and traffic problems; low quality of design and road safety.

Glenveagh Living did not respond to a request from the Galway City Tribune for comment.
This is a preview only. To read extensive coverage of the Glenveagh plans and objections, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Arts fraternity rallies as Theo faces deportation

Denise McNamara

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Less than a year after being invited by the Arts Council to perform at a conference about diversity in the arts, a musician, DJ and rapper – who is about to embark on a project for Galway 2020 – is facing deportation.

Theophilus Ndlovu left Zimbabwe after what he claims was a lifetime of abuse at the hands of the people who were supposed to mind him.

His mother left when he was just six years old and he never met his father. He was placed in the care of an unofficial foster family but it was never a happy arrangement.

“These people I stayed with were abusing me. They were never my family. I was running away from persecution and abuse and the way I was treated by these people. I had to fend for myself since I was ten years old,” he recalls.

When Theo was 20, he saved up enough money from mowing lawns and selling chickens to escape, arriving in Ireland where he sought asylum. Authorities placed him in a Direct Provision Centre in Finglas for a fortnight before he was transferred to the Great Western Direct Provision Centre off Eyre Square, where he has remained for nearly four years.

Almost immediately, Theo felt at home.

“This is my family. Galway is where I found my voice. It has become my home. It is just where I’m meant to be.”

Theo has immersed himself in the arts community and has become a leading hip-hop artist, known as Touché, performing regularly at venues such as the Róisín Dubh and the Black Gate. He was instrumental in getting fellow asylum seekers and refugees involved in music collaborations.

He is a founding member of the multicultural music project ‘Atmos Collective’ and has facilitated numerous music workshops in Galway, “teaching, motivating and inspiring hundreds of young people along the way”, according to co-founder Alice McDowell, an Australian filmmaker and fiddler.

The collective was recently granted funding by the Galway European Capital of Culture 2020 committee to host community music workshops in the city and county over the next year as part of their ‘Small Towns Big Ideas’ scheme.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.

The petition is available online HERE

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