Dodgy medium is banged up for heartless blank cheque fraud
A BENT accountant turned psychic medium has been jailed for stealing a €300,000 retirement nest egg from elderly clients.
Tom Colton was led away in handcuffs this week after admitting to theft and sentenced to two-and-a-half years behind bars.
He pocketed the cash in 2005 at the same time he had been involved in the launch of a US$600 million Caribbean island development.
Football star Damien Duff had been recruited for the razzmatazz launch of Sapphire Cove at the Radisson Hotel in Dublin, but later washed his hands of the organisers.
This week Colton (39), was branded as cold and calculating in the way he went about fooling a woman into handing over a blank cheque to be used to settle a tax bill.
Instead he transferred €321,000 to the account of a firm based in New Jersey, paying just €78,000 to Revenue.
Monaghan couple Hugh and Mary McNally had approached their accountant of 30 years, Niall Brophy, in 2005 to sort out a settlement over an offshore account.
He handed the case over to Colton, who had qualified as a chartered accounted while working for Brophy in Celbridge, Co. Kildare.
It emerged in court this week that Mr McNally had begun showing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and his wife Mary, as a mother of seven, had never been part of the day-to-day running of their business.
A cheque was written for an initial sum of cash, but Colton later called Mary McNally to say he had good news that a lower sum would settle the case.
She agreed to his request for a blank signed cheque, which Colton then made out for over €400,000 and lodged to a bank account he controlled.
The bulk of the cash, €321,000, was transferred to an American firm based in New Jersey, Walton Management Services.
According to the single charge against Colton, the theft occurred on 15 July, 2005, just a month after a grandiose property scheme was launched in Dublin.
Investors were encouraged to buy up plots in the Sapphire Cove project on the sun-kissed island of St Lucia, with promises of big returns on their cash.
Those who attended included the Prime Minister of St Lucia Kenny Anthony and soccer star Duff.
Colton had run a limousine business, which folded when the recession hit. He reinvented himself as a psychic medium, helping people to contact dead relatives and officiating at weddings where the spirits of the dead were invited. Colton previously told the Sunday World that he doesn’t use his paranormal skills to look into the future.
“I’m a medium more so than a psychic. I communicate with spirits, there’s a difference between those who do Tarot readings and those who communicate with spirits.
“There’s a big difference, I don’t do fortunes, I don’t do predictions, I don’t do anything like that,” he said.
No explanation was given in court this week as to why Colton paid over the cash to Walton Management Services.
The theft came to light when Mary McNally realised in 2009 that only €78,000 had been paid to Revenue. One of her sons then challenged Colton, who admitted filling out the blank cheque and using the funds for his own purpose.
Mrs McNally successfully brought a civil case against Brophy and Colton’s firm and was awarded €240,000, paid out by an insurance company. She was still at a loss of €83,000 which has not been recovered.
Garda Stephanie McDaniels said in court that the theft had a big impact on the McNallys.
“She’s an old woman and her husband is in full-time residential care. She found the whole investigation very stressful,” she said.
In court this week it was claimed that Colton committed the theft at a time when he was “under enormous pressure” as the economy crashed. He claimed that debts were being demanded from him “in a menacing way” and that he feared for the safety of his family.
A garda witness agreed that Colton had reported the threats in 2006.
Judge Michael O’Shea said an accountant is in “the higher echelons of trust” and that Colton’s theft was “coldly calculated”.
“His behaviour was extraordinarily dishonest and fraudulent in respect of Mrs McNally and the manner of obtaining the cheque,” he said.
The judge acknowledged Colton’s guilty plea, that he was repaying the insurance company over 20 years and had promised to repay the balance to Mrs Nally. He imposed a sentence of four years with 18 months suspended.