Thief posing as garda stole €28k from pensioner
A PENSIONER who withdrew his €28,000 life savings from the bank over fears of an Irish financial collapse had it stolen by a young man impersonating a garda.
Kenneth Lyons (31) was jailed for three and a half years for what a judge described as a "a very mean" crime against a vulnerable old man.
The 71-year-old victim had the cash which he had saved up to cover his funeral expenses stolen just hours before he was due to fly to Medjugorje on a pilgrimage.
Lyons, who has 15 previous convictions, appeared before Cork Circuit Criminal Court after being detained in the UK last May on foot of a European Arrest Warrant.
He was first charged in 2011 with the theft of €28,000 and with impersonating a member of An Garda Siochana.
Lyons of Willison Meadows, Blarney, Cork pleaded guilty to both offences at Wolfe Tone Street, Cork on June 26, 2011.
Judge Sean O'Donnabhain heard that the victim was so scared of Irish banks collapsing during the financial crisis he had withdrawn his life savings and kept it in an envelope at home.
As he loaded luggage into his car for the pilgrimage, he was approached by Lyons who identified himself as a detective at Gurranabraher Garda Station.
The pensioner was told they were investigating robberies in the area and were offering to mark any cash held by householders for security reasons.
The pensioner brought Lyons into his home and showed him an envelope containing €28,000 in €50 notes.
Lyons grabbed the envelope, ran down the stairs and out of the house.
The 71-year-old attempted to give chase but lost Lyons.
Gardai called to Lyons' house two days later and found €18,900 hidden in two socks.
Lyons had also shaved off all his hair in a bid to avoid being identified from all the media coverage of the theft.
He was charged before Cork District Court on June 30, 2011 and secured High Court bail the following month.
The case came before Cork Circuit Criminal Court on May 3, 2012 but Lyons failed to appear.
He was later traced to Manchester, arrested and brought back to Ireland.
In evidence, Lyons said he was very sorry for what had happened.
"I deeply regret it... I am sorry for what I done," he sobbed. He explained that he only went to the UK out of fear.
In a victim impact statement, the theft was described as having an enormous effect on the pensioner as it was money saved for his funeral expenses.
Don McCarthy BL, for Lyons, said his client has now repaid the outstanding €9,000 to the victim thanks to a loan from his father-in-law.
Judge O'Donnabhain warned that the crime targeted a vulnerable older person and reflected why so many pensioner feel prisoners in their own homes.
The judge said he couldn't even imagine the trauma suffered by the victim who saw a person he thought was a garda stealing his life savings and the money he had saved up for his funeral expenses.
The judge also said Lyons had played "fast and loose" with the system, saying in the district court that he did not have a cocaine problem so he could get bail and then saying he had a drug addiction problem to get the mercy of another court.
He jailed Lyons for five years but agreed to suspend the final 18 months in light of his plea, his remorse and his repayment of all monies to the pensioner.
He backdated the sentence to May 23 last when Lyons went into custody.