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'No remorse' Couple conned two elderly women out of over €135,000 with 'sob stories'

In a victim impact statement, one of the victim's daughters said the O'Briens exploited her mother's kindness and asked her for more and more money.

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Joanne O'Brien (39), stole a total of €900 from one of the women on two occasions.

Joanne O'Brien (39), stole a total of €900 from one of the women on two occasions.

Joanne O'Brien (39), stole a total of €900 from one of the women on two occasions.

A man conned hundreds of thousands of euro out of two elderly women – including the life-savings of one – by telling them a series of “sob stories”, a Dublin court has heard.

Gerry O'Brien (41) convinced his victims that he was due to receive a substantial pay-out from an insurance claim before he stole €107,286 and €27,254 from the women over a number of months.

His wife, Joanne O'Brien (39), stole a total of €900 from one of the women on two occasions.

Gerry O'Brien told the women various stories to convince them to hand over money in the form of cheques and cash, including that he needed a deposit for a house, needed medical care, needed to drill holes in his walls for an oxygen machine and had been evicted.

He convinced his victims that he would pay them back with the fictitious pay-out.

At one point, O'Brien paid “a young fella” to pose as a solicitor and phone the women to confirm this tale, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard today.

Gerry O'Brien, of Belmont Close, Ballyguile, Co Wicklow pleaded guilty to one count of stealing €107,286 in cash and cheques by deception from Beryl Tilson (then aged 77) at an address in Sandyford between July 2017 and November 2018.

He also pleaded guilty to one count of stealing €27,254 in cash and cheques from Rosemary Fitzgerald (then aged 73) by deception at an address in Blackrock between August and November 2018.

Joanne O'Brien, pleaded guilty to two counts of theft from Ms Tilson on December 23, 2017 and July 12, 2018.

Detective Garda Paul Kane told the court that Gerry O'Brien first called to Ms Tilson's door in July 2017 and told her a “sob story” about being put out of his house. He told her he was a Traveller from Wicklow with a number of children. Ms Tilson gave him €100 in cash and he returned a few days later looking for more money.

Over the following 16 months, she regularly gave him cash and cheques for a range of fictitious reasons. She also gave Joanne O'Brien money on two occasions when she called to the house.

In relation to Ms Fitzgerald, the court heard Gerry O'Brien called to her house and told her he was the son of a Traveller woman who she used to help 25 years ago. She was also persuaded to give him money on a number of occasions.

On one occasion, the fake solicitor who rang both women about the insurance claim also told Ms Tilson that O'Brien had been kidnapped up the mountains and needed ransom money. Ms Tilson replied that she had already given O'Brien all her money.

The offences in relation to Ms Tilson came to light in November 2018 when a bank worker became suspicious about the activity on her account and gardaí were contacted. Coincidentally around the same time, Ms Fitzgerald confided in her son about O'Brien and he also contacted gardaí.

In a victim impact statement read out in court, Ms Tilson's daughter said her mother was a hard-working and kind woman, who had always given generously to charity and taught her children to do the same.

She said the O'Briens exploited her mother's kindness with their “sob stories” and asked her for more and more money. She was subjected to a “barrage of intimidating and begging phone calls” and had “no peace in her own house”.

At one point, she said her mother went without heating oil in winter as she was short of money as a result of the offence. Her children only discovered the thefts when the gardaí became involved.

“Gerry and Joanne conned mum out of most of her life savings,” Ms Tilson's daughter said.

In a victim impact statement read out by the prosecution counsel, Ms Fitzgerald said she had been left “distraught” by the thefts. She said she had only one question for Gerry O'Brien: “Have you no conscience?"

The court heard Gerry O'Brien, who is in custody, has 68 previous convictions, including theft, fraud and assault.

Joanne O'Brien has 28 previous convictions, almost entirely for road traffic offences. The couple have four children.

Seoirse O Dunlaing BL, defending Gerry O'Brien, said his client was extremely remorseful for his actions. A psychological report and a letter of remorse were handed into court.

Judge Pauline Codd said the letter contained “no remorse to the two ladies whose kindness he exploited”. “This letter is just about his woes,” she said.

Marc Murphy BL, defending Joanne O'Brien, said his client had repaid the €900 she stole from Ms Tilson.

Judge Codd adjourned the matter to May 17 for sentencing.

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