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Disgraced Garda and GAA star avoids jail after ATM scam

CourtsBy Tom Tuite
Garda Brendan Phillips at court this morning
Garda Brendan Phillips at court this morning

A disgraced Garda and former GAA star has been fined €2,000 but was spared jail for defrauding a bank out of €450 in an ATM scam.

Garda Brendan Phillips, 35, an ex-Sligo inter-county footballer, who had been based in Blanchardstown in Dublin, is facing the sack after he pleaded guilty yesterday to three deception charges and two counts of attempted deception. 

Judge Bryan Smyth heard at Dublin District Court that Phillips is now regarded as a “pariah” as a result of the €450 fraud which will cost him is career in An Garda Siochana.

He was prosecuted in connection with withdrawals from AIB bank machines in Dublin in March and April 2013.

Judge Smyth said Phillips, who is now living and working in the UK, faces “catastrophic consequences” as a result of his poor judgement.

Det Superintendent JJ Keane, of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, told prosecuting counsel Ronan Kennedy that AIB officials noticed unusual transactions occurring at some of their ATMs.

Det Supt Keane explained in evidence that Phillips, who previously had an address at Charnwood Green, Clonsilla, Dublin 15, had used his own bank cards and PINs at bank machines in Clonee, Clonsilla and Blanchardstown on separate dates.

He requested €170 from the machines and on each occasion that amount was dispensed however he took €150 and left €20 in the dispensing tray.

Det Supt Keane said the machines were unable to identify how much money was taken back in by the ATM. It was flagged as an “extraordinary transaction” and the full value was refunded to the account. This could only occur twice within in a certain time period and on his third on fourth attempts using the same card, he failed to make any money.

The court heard he then moved on to using a second bank account card and managed to get another €150 using the same trick. However, when he again tried the method too many times with this card “anomalies” were noticed by the bank's fraud prevention unit.

He was contacted and immediately agreed to give back the €450 he had fraudulently taken.

Gardai were then alerted and he co-operated with their investigation and identified himself on CCTV. Phillips was also suspended from duty pending the outcome of the court case.

He had originally indicated that he would contest the charges;the trial had been set down for two days and it was expected that 25 prosecution witnesses would be called.

Michael Bowman SC, defending, told Judge Bryan Smyth that there had been a change of plea and the prosecution had been given advance notice.

He asked Det Supt Keane if he agreed the offences were opportunistic and that Phillips had used poor judgement. Det Supt Keane said, “it was certainly poor judgement”. 

Phillips, who joined the gardai in 2002, had been well respected in his career and cherished his role in community policing, however counsel said he “now finds himself a pariah as a result of his own actions”.

Mr Bowman said Phillips was looked up to by children in the community and he gave them football training in schools. "For a small amount of money, he finds himself effectively disgraced professionally, disgraced within his community and, I would submit, practically unemployable," the counsel told the court.

In December, the co-accused Garda Raymond Geelan, 38, from Hayworth, the Ongar, Dublin 15, entered a guilty plea at an early stage and was fined €3,000. He managed to fraudulently obtain €600, the court had heard.