Conman's jail sentence right, says ex-builder
A FORMER builder who was deceived into giving an ex-city councillor over €6,000 said that the financial advisor deserved every bit of the one-year prison sentence imposed on him.
Eric Higgins made the comment outside Cork Circuit Criminal Court yesterday following the sentencing of Gary O'Flynn (38), of Hayfield Drive, Whitechurch, Co Cork.
Last month a jury found O'Flynn guilty of 13 sample counts of obtaining €1,000 by deception from Higgins between December 31, 2009 and January 27, 2012.
Sentencing was adjourned last week to allow Judge Sean O'Donnabhain consider a psychiatric report on the former Cork City Councillor.
Last week's hearing heard an emotional plea from Gary's father, former Fianna Fáil TD Noel O'Flynn, who asked the court to spare his son a custodial sentence so he could get help for his mental health.
Yesterday Mr Higgins gave a victim impact statement to the court. He said he was absent from last week's hearing when O'Flynn issued an apology to him, but that he could not accept it. He said the five-day trial in May had a severe impact on his health.
"I was sniggered at in the box at one point during the trial and only on an actual guilty verdict, all of a sudden the apologies flow," Mr Higgins told the court.
During the trial Mr Higgins said he received a letter from a company called Debt Assist. He contacted the company seeking help with his debts to Bank of Scotland and Friends First and then met O'Flynn.
He said that O'Flynn had set up weekly payments totalling €62.50 to be paid by Mr Higgins into a bank account nominated by O'Flynn.
Mr Higgins said that he believed the payments were going towards his debts with Bank of Scotland and Friends First, but he then received letters from both institutions threatening legal action over failure to pay.
In his defence, O'Flynn had claimed the monies paid by Mr Higgins were legal fees for O'Flynn's services as a solicitor and not payments towards the debts.
Judge O'Donnabhain said it was clear O'Flynn never acted as a solicitor for Mr Higgins.
"At the time it would be hard to think of anybody in a more distressed condition than Eric Higgins," he said. "It's not the money, it's the breach of trust."
The judge sentenced Gary O'Flynn to three years in prison, but suspended the last two years of the sentence.