Thursday, June 20, 2019

A former barrister who stole €235,000 from a businessman by pretending to buy him a warehouse in Co Kildare will be sentenced later at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Patrick Russell (56), with an address at Teach Daingain, Steelstown, Rathcoole, Co Dublin, pleaded guilty to the theft of €215,000 from businessman Paul O’Connell at Anglesea St, Temple Bar in Dublin on July 23, 2015.

Six further counts were taken into consideration, including the theft of €20,000 from Mr O’Connell and the use of false instruments such as forged deeds from the Property Registration Authority.

Garda Shane Behan told Kerida Naidoo SC, prosecuting, that Russell was introduced to Mr O’Connell in 2014.

Russell claimed to be an arbitrator and financial consultant and offered to facilitate the purchase of a commercial warehouse at Clane Business Park in Co Kildare for Mr O’Connell for an agreed sum of €235,000.

The court heard that Russell gained the trust of Mr O’Connell and his family, made regular visits to their home and invited them in turn to his home, all to discuss the planned purchase of the warehouse.

Mr O’Connell followed Russell’s instructions and transferred €15,000 and later €5,000 from his bank account to a UK account and to an account in the name of Russell’s wife. Russell told Mr O’Connell that these monies were for stamp duty and other associated fees.

Acting at Russell’s request, Mr O’Connell then paid a further €215,000 to solicitors who accepted it in good faith. However, the solicitors later became suspicious and went to gardaí to make a complaint against Russell. Mr O’Connell and his family members also alerted gardaí to the matter.

Russell had presented Mr O’Connell and members of the O’Connell family with a series of forged and altered documents from the Property Registration Authority, which gave the impression that the mortgage had been paid off on the warehouse and that ownership of the property had been transferred to Mr O’Connell.

The court heard that the warehouse in question was never actually purchased and Mr O’Connell remains at the loss of €235,000.

Gda Behan said Russell was interviewed five times by gardaí and initially denied stealing or misappropriating any money but pleaded guilty to theft in March of this year. He has nine previous convictions for minor road traffic offences.

Bernard Condon SC, defending, said his client was willing to do whatever necessary to restore the total sum of €235,000 to Mr O’Connell.

Mr Condon said €215,000 of the total sum is currently frozen in AIB. He said Russell has been offered work by a UK employer which will enable him to come up with the remaining €20,000.

However, Mr Condon said his client has health difficulties and has an urgent cardiology appointment in July. He asked the court for “one last chance” to allow Russell to deal with his health and put together the final amount of money to return to the injured party.

Judge Melanie Greally adjourned sentencing until November 4, next and ordered a probation report to be prepared.

When asked by the judge about Russell’s professional background, Mr Condon replied that his client had qualifications from Trinity College and from DIT’s College of Marketing and Design. He said Russell was a barrister “at one stage” and had worked in financial advice.

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