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Galway woman is spared jail after fraud conviction

A Galway woman, who used false documents to secure a €1.65m bank loan in an “act of desperation”, has avoided a prison sentence.

At Galway Circuit Criminal Court this week, Judge Brian O’Callaghan imposed a suspended 18-month sentence on 53-year-old Miriam Cahill.

After hearing evidence, Judge O’Callaghan said: “It is the court’s view that the last place this lady needs to be is in prison.”

Judge O’Callaghan said the offending transaction occurred between August and December 2008 “during an interesting time in this country’s history”.

Cahill, with an address at 59 Lower Salthill, pleaded guilty last year to an offence contrary to Cection 7 of the Criminal Justice Theft and Fraud Offences Act.

The charge stated Cahill dishonestly by deception on a date unknown between August 1 and December 31, 2008 – with the intention of making a gain for herself or another or causing a loss to another – obtained by deception from a member of staff at ACC bank, a loan of €1.65 million, secured by a mortgage, by providing false and fraudulent documentation regarding the loan application.

The false documentation in question was a purported P60 from 2007 in her name, a purported letter from the Kingfisher Club in her name and a purported letter from DBAS Accountancy Services, Ennis Road, Gort, in her name.

Prosecuting counsel, Geri Silke BL, told the court the accused secured the loan on the basis of incorrect income submitted to ACC bank.

Funds totalling €1.65m were transferred to an account and the loan and not been fully repaid, the court heard

A detective garda agreed with counsel that the accused had not come to garda attention prior to or since the offence.

In sentencing, Judge O’Callaghan said the accused pleaded guilty to a “most serious offence”.

He said it would be easy to characterise cases such as this as “to hell with the banks, they don’t matter”. He continued: “They do and we need them.”

He said trust was at the core of the case.

“Sadly in this case trust broke down at the very start of the relationship.”

Judge O’Callaghan said the defendant found herself under financial pressure and required additional equity to repay debts to builders for work carried out on her property in Salthill.

He said the court was satisfied there was “no self gain personally involved in this transaction” and the court accepted the loan was used for the purpose in which it was obtained and there was “no personal benefit or private use”.

The judge was satisfied the accused was under pressure to repay third parties – who themselves were under pressure from other parties – given the state of the economy at the time.

“People were trying to get paid. People were going to the wall,” he added.

The judge said he had the benefit of a probation report in which Cahill describes her actions as an “act of desperation”.

He said the court was satisfied from the report that Cahill knew what she was doing was “wrong and dishonest”.

The probation services said the accused was at a low risk of re-offending.

In mitigation, defence barrister Michael O’Connor SC, said at the time of the offence, Cahill had a performing €1.4m loan with KBC bank but that “builders were knocking on the door” to be paid for work done at the Salthill property.

Counsel said his client intended to put apartments into the property but ran into the “perfect storm” of the 2008 economic collapse.

He said his client came from a small community and had suffered “considerable shame and embarrassment”.

“She accepts it is her fault entirely and it is an aberration for her and her family,” he added.

Judge O’Callaghan noted that an aggravating factor in the case was the “total breach of trust and dishonestly involved”.

However he also noted Cahill had been waiting five years to learn her fate “which in itself is a form of sentence”.

Taking all circumstances into account, including care which Cahill provides to her daughter, Judge O’Callaghan imposed a fully-suspended 18-month sentence.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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