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Elderly couple duped out of their savings


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Elderly couple duped out of their savings Elderly couple duped out of their savings

A former Spurs youth player has been given a suspended three-year sentence for duping an elderly Galway couple into handing over their bank card details to him when he called to their home posing as a PhoneWatch representative.

28-year-old Denis Igoe, from 35 Station Road, Ennis, Co Clare, had previously worked for PhoneWatch but then hatched a plan, after losing his job in 2019, to use his former credentials and work experience to dupe PhoneWatch customers into parting with their cash.

Igoe had already stolen an estimated €11,000 from ten other elderly people in Clare and Limerick – money he claimed he needed to pay off a cocaine debt to a Limerick crime family – before he preyed on a couple in Ballybane on February 27, 2020.

He pleaded guilty to trespassing at the couple’s home in Monivea Park, Ballybane, with intent to commit theft when he first appeared before Galway Circuit Criminal Court last April and sentence was adjourned for the preparation of reports.

Garda Jason Kelly told the sentence hearing Igoe called to the couple’s door after seeing a Phonewatch alarm on their house. He called himself Derek Nolan and was invited in after purporting to be a PhoneWatch representative.

He told them PhoneWatch was offering a €50 upgrade to their alarm system and the woman handed over her bank card to him.

Garda Kelly said Igoe went into the kitchen on his own where he quickly put her PIN into his phone.

He left the house but returned a short time later and asked the woman for her phone number.

Later that evening, Igoe rang the woman and told her another PhoneWatch employee called Michael O’Neill would call at some point to install the upgraded system.

The couple became suspicious after that phone call and rang PhoneWatch. They were told the company did not employ either man.

The woman contacted her bank and was told €300 had been taken from her account. An attempt had been made to withdraw a further €700, but this transaction had been stopped as there was a €300 ATM withdrawal limit on the woman’s account.

Garda Kelly said Igoe was identified on CCTV footage withdrawing the €300 from the bank’s ATM.

He confirmed Igoe had 34 previous convictions for similar theft and fraud offences, perpetrated against elderly people in counties Clare and Limerick around the same time as the Galway offence.

The court heard Igoe had received a two-year sentence at Limerick Circuit Court in September 2020, with the final year suspended, for numerous, similar theft and fraud charges.

Defence barrister, Brendan Browne, said his client, who was a Moldovan national, became addicted to cocaine and ran up a €10,000 drug debt to a criminal family in Limerick who threatened him and his family if the money was not paid.

He said Igoe had worked for PhoneWatch between 2016 and 2019 and “hatched” a plan from that experience to get the money.

Igoe brought €750 to court to repay the €300 he owed the Galway couple and the remaining €450 as a token of his remorse.

Mr Browne said the 34 previous convictions occurred during a concentrated period of time and that a probation officer who had prepared a report for the court had said that given his history of offending, at some future time Igoe could very well engage in similar offences.

Mr Browne suggested to Judge Brian O’Callaghan that as his client had already served time in prison, a suspended sentence might stop him from doing this again.

Judge O’Callaghan pointed out the report stated Igoe continued to pose a high risk of reoffending.

The judge also noted from the report that negative media coverage after the Limerick prison sentence was imposed in 2020, had impacted on Igoe’s ability to get further employment.

Mr Browne agreed that the national media had widely published the court case, adding his client had been a promising Spurs youth player until a serious injury put him on a different path in life.

“Hopefully, such adverse media attention might be avoided this time. Obviously, it’s not for the court to restrict the Fourth Estate [the Press], but it does impact on him and his family,” Judge O’Callaghan said.

Mr Browne conceded 34 previous convictions as well as the latest one now before the court, would also impact his client’s ability to secure employment going forward.

Judge O’Callaghan commiserated with the Galway couple’s plight and asked Garda Kelly to convey his best wishes to them.

He set the headline sentence at five years for what he described as a nasty, highly-planned and targeted offence.

Taking Igoe’s early plea, his successful attempts at rehabilitation, his remorse and offer of €750 into account the judge reduced the sentence to three years, which he suspended for three years on condition Igoe abstain from controlled drugs and alcohol for the three years.

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