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With her permission, they examined her bank accounts and tallied the amounts withdrawn with amounts the woman had recorded in her own private accounting journal, each time the brothers were paid.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

Saving on school books

Dara Bradley

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Secondary school students struggling with back-to-school costs, or looking for a bargain, can shave as much as 40% off the cost of school books – if they buy second hand.

And The Book Exchange on Lower Abbeygate Street in Galway City will even buy back good-quality school books, which it then re-sells.

“You typically can get 40% off the retail value of books if you shop with us. We generally say that if you spend €100 on new books, they’d be €60 here,” said Gary Healy of The Book Exchange.

It doesn’t stock a full-range of books, like Eason’s or other new school book retailers, but it caters well for Senior cycle students in secondary school in particular.

“Most of the fifth year and sixth year books are here, whether it’s maths such as Active Maths 4, Active Maths 3 or Irish books like Fuinneamh Nua. We have a lot of language books and a lot of the optional subjects. In general, almost all the firth and sixth year secondary school curriculum can be got second hand. With the Junior Cert, it’s only a couple of subjects that are available and it depends on the school. English books at Junior Cert can be gotten second-hand, and then sometimes the optional subjects like woodwork, tech graphics, music,” he said.

The Book Exchange will go through the booklist with the students or parents, although customers are advised to get in touch in advance.

“I’d advise anybody to stick a nose in to us with a list, or even give us a ring, or an email. We’re always happy to go down through the list with people, and walk them through it because one of the biggest things that can be a problem with the school book list, is when it specifies a book for a parent to get, it could say ‘new edition’ but in many cases ‘new edition’ just means it’s called the new edition, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s new. It could be 10 years after and it would still be called the ‘new edition’.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Changes to garda structure require ‘feet on the ground’

Francis Farragher

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STRUCTURAL changes in Garda management – which will see the current Western Region merged with the Northern area – need to be backed up with ‘feet on the ground’, according to the Chairperson of the city’s Joint Policing Committee.

Cllr Niall McNelis said he also had concerns over the impact that a reduction in Garda Superintendents and Chief Superintendents could have on the management of the force across the Galway region.

“I know that the stated intention of the Commissioner [Drew Harris] is to increase the frontline presence of Gardaí but this cannot be achieved without more feet on the ground.

“There also has to be concerns over an apparent lack of consultation on the changes with Garda Superintendents who really play a key role in managing the Garda resources at local level,” said Cllr McNelis.

He added that in the aftermath of the financial crash in Ireland, Garda resources – both in terms of personnel and equipment – had taken a huge hit, with this ‘lost ground’ still not being made up.

“The bottom line in all of this is: will we see more Gardaí on the beat; more Gardaí operating at local level and in touch with local people; and also a management structure that’s in touch with local communities?” Cllr McNelis asked.

One of the major changes announced by Commissioner Drew Harris is a reduction in the number of national Garda regions across the country from six to four, each one under the control of an Assistant Commissioner.  The Western Garda Region – that had consisted of Galway, Clare, Roscommon/Longford and Mayo – will now be merged into one region amalgamating with the North.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Traffic gridlock – specialist traffic control operator at City Hall among proposed solutions

Francis Farragher

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THE city came close to complete gridlock on last Tuesday with a combination of minor accidents, roadworks, visitor numbers, an influx of shoppers and bad weather, making it a nightmare afternoon and evening for motorists.

Eyre Square, College Road, Lough Atalia, the Moneenagheisha junction and the dual-carriageway leading up to the Briarhill traffic-lights, endured the most severe clog-ups, but commuters across the city reported long delays from lunchtime through to the later evening period.

Former Mayor of Galway and taxi-operator, Cllr Frank Fahy, told the Galway City Tribune that by early afternoon he had to abandon his efforts to continue working.

“I know that there was a huge volume of traffic in the city due to back-to-school shoppers and there were also reports of a number of minor accidents, but I still think that we can do better in terms of managing the flow of vehicles.

“The roadworks in Bohermore were no help and there were reports of a number of minor accidents but we also have real problems with parking and signage issues in the city.

“And most of all, we need a hands-on specialist traffic control operator – experienced and skilled in traffic management – in the control room at City Hall, to monitor flows at all our key junctions,” said Cllr Fahy.

Public transport also got completely bogged down in the Tuesday evening snarl-up with bus commuters from the city to Oranmore reporting a journey time of close on one hour and 20 minutes.

Buses took up to 20 minutes to make it from their stops in Eyre Square to even get onto College Road which had almost ground to a complete standstill at around 5.30pm.

Another motorist told the Galway City Tribune that his journey time from Forster Street to the Briarhill junction was one hour and 50 minutes on Tuesday evening – 4.10pm to 6pm.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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