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With her permission, they examined her bank accounts and tallied the amounts withdrawn with amounts the woman had recorded in her own private accounting journal, each time the brothers were paid.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.
Budget money set aside for study into tidal pools
Councillors have agreed to provide funding for a feasibility study into reopening the tidal pools in Salthill.
During the Galway City Council budget meeting this week, a balanced budget of €103 million for next year was passed by councillors.
Included in this was €44,000 for a feasibility study to be carried out to reopen the tidal pools at Ladies’ beach, which has been described as a “a huge asset to the city” by Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath.
Support for the reviving of the pools grew legs after an online petition attracted over 4,500 signatures.
Up to 100 of the 518 submissions made under the City Development Plan currently being drafted supported reopening the pools which have been out of action since the late 1970s.
Meanwhile, the four biggest allocations in the budget for 2022 were nearly €39m set to be spent on housing and building; €17m on recreation and amenity and €14m on road, transport and safety and €13m on environmental services.
There was broad welcome from around the table for plans to employ three more community wardens; six additional permanent general operative posts; four seasonal outdoor workers and two housing maintenance staff.
The two key projects earmarked for Council-owned land at the Dyke Road and Sandy Road to create “affordable, residential-led and mixed used development” will also get nine specialists to progress them with the Land Development Agency.
But there was widespread criticism that the City Council continues to be the poor relation when compared to other cities around the country.
Because it has been categorised in ‘Band 5’ since 1991 – along with rural local authorities such as Carlow, Leitrim and Monaghan – its workforce is meant to be capped at 487. Last May it was at 524, with plans to increase that by 30 more next year due to increased projects and pressure on services. But these posts will have to undergo rigorous assessment by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.
The ‘controlling pact’ of councillors made adjustments of €423,000 to stump up for their own projects. They achieved these savings by cutting the IT budget by €60,000, culling €220,000 earmarked to create a new project management unit to oversee large projects and €50,000 for a tourism promotion fund.
City Hall’s plan to increase grave opening charges to reap €15,000 was overturned as was their recommendation to up the price of using public toilets from 20c to 50c, creating revenue of €23,000.
Their proposal of an €8 per day charge to park in the Dyke Road, Cathedral and College Road car parks was also scaled back to €6.50, which will bring in extra income of €149,000 instead of €298,000. A monthly €100 parking ticket will also now be available for daily users, which will reduce the charge to just over €3 per day.
Among the biggest winners in the revised budget was a feasibility study for the Salthill tidal pools (€44,000); Westside running track lights (€40,000); Greenfields walking path (€32,000) and €30,000 each for the castles restoration project and repairing roads and footpaths in Old Mervue.
The ‘pact’ projects were slammed by out-voted councillors as discriminating against residents on the east side of the city, who make up one third of the population, but allegedly only attracted 10 per cent of these adjustments.
This was rejected by the councillor leading the ruling pact’s budget, Cllr Frank Fahy (FG), who said in fact €105,000 would go to projects on the east side out of the €423,000 even though just one councillor in the pact was from that ward – Cllr Terry O’Flaherty (Ind).
Slamming the cut of €60,000 to ICT, Cllr Mike Crowe said never in the history of the City Council had technology been so important at it facilitated staff to work from home and in an era where cyberattacks had paralysed the Health Service Executive (HSE) and NUI Galway.
He also said the monthly parking charge would effectively take advantage of people who were only worked in the office two or three days.
“Galway City East has one third of the population but the adjustments by the pact equate to 10.5% – €49,000 – that’s 10-11% to be spent on the east. The rest is Galway City West and Galway City Centre [wards]. That’s a reflection of the pact. Last year the east got 18% of adjustments and 31-33% went to other wards…some of these adjustments are at the least very questionable and should be reconsidered.”
Cllr Alan Cheevers (FF) said he found the adjustments “very parochial”. There was nothing to fund improvements in Doughiska, Roscam, Headford Road and Tuam Road.
“We’re elected to represent the people of the city so I believe we should allocate it fairly.”
The budget passed, with just one councillor, Mike Crowe, voting against it. Another vote to alter the 2009 Parking Bylaws to allow for a monthly parking ticket was passed 11 votes to seven.
Salthill will NOT have one-way traffic under new cycleway plans
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Salthill will not be reduced to one-way traffic under plans for the new cycleway along the Promenade, following the intervention of the National Transport Authority in the controversy.
It was confirmed yesterday (Thursday) that a design is now being considered to “ensure the widest support possible”.
Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council – which recently created cycleways in Dublin – will now be involved in the design process.
Last September, city councillors voted in favour of creating a two-way segregated cycle lane along the coastal side of the Prom from Grattan Road to Blackrock as a six-month trial.
However, it subsequently emerged that this would involve introducing one-way traffic along the Prom, with the outbound lane closed to make way for bicycles – this information has not been presented to councillors as they decided to vote on the cycle lane without any prior discussion.
Galway West TD and Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Hildegarde Naughton, subsequently asked the National Transport Authority (NTA) to intervene in the row.
“As a result of a meeting held last week between the NTA and the City Council, I can confirm that both parties are working to review proposals that will meet the objectives of the [City Council] motion while also looking to retain two-way traffic,” she said.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
Criminal Assets Bureau targets two Galway families
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Garda raids at seven locations on the east side of the city earlier this week were aimed at ‘hitting in the pocket’ two families alleged to be heavily involved in the drugs trade, the Galway City Tribune has learned.
Close to 100 personnel from different Garda and Customs specialist units were involved in the searches of residences in the Castle Park and Radharc na Gréine estates early on Tuesday morning.
According to Garda sources, they are confident that the raids – which also involved the seizure of a 191 Audi car worth an estimated €45,000+ in the Garryowen area of Limerick – will lead to arrests over the coming weeks and months.
Files have already started to be prepared for forwarding to the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) in relation to the seizures on Tuesday which included €22,000 in cash; £4,450 in sterling; a range of high-value designer goods, as well as the freezing of €17,000 in a bank account.
Searches carried out prior to this week’s operation by specialist Garda units had resulted in the seizure of €18,680 in cash and the freezing of bank accounts to the value of €66,000. Two Rolex watches were also seized – these items have a value which can range between €10,000 and €100,000 each.
The strategy behind the CAB/Garda crackdown on illegal drugs gangs is based on striking at the finances of the local drug barons – as well as the seizure of cash/goods and the freezing of bank accounts, Revenue are closely involved in the ‘monitoring of income’ of the gang members with a view to issuing substantial tax bills.
Detective Superintendent Shane Cummins, who is in charge of crime operations in the Galway Garda Division, said this week’s searches were part of an ongoing operation aimed at tackling the sale and supply of illegal drugs across the city and county.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read more on the raids and Garda Asset Profilers, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.