Solicitor gets three years for stealing €2.8m
a former solicitor described as a devout Christian has been jailed for three years for stealing €2.8m from former clients' accounts to fund investment properties and play the stock market.
Judge Mary Ellen Ring said Ruairi O'Ceallaigh (42) had used the money for the "ultimate in gambling" and had "gambled on the gamble".
Det Sgt Paschal Walsh told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that one theft involved €1,551,366 from a client who had left his estate to the Archdiocese of Dublin.
O'Ceallaigh used this to invest in property, pay for renovations and stamp duties and to clear a mortgage on another property.
O'Ceallaigh, of Collegeland, Summerhill, Co Meath, pleaded guilty to seven counts of dishonestly appropriating €2,816,566, the property of Sean O Ceallaigh and Company, and having designated these sums as credited to seven named clients' accounts on dates between July 2006 and May 2010.
O'Ceallaigh told gardai he took the money from the accounts with the intention of paying it back. He had used it to buy shares, including Contracts For Difference, in an attempt to "claw back" some losses.
"I was under the false belief I could make the money back on the stock market and make right the wrong I had done," he told investigators.
Judge Ring said O'Ceallaigh committed the most fundamental breaches of trust as a solicitor, and commented that had he been convicted at trial a sentence of eight years "would not have been excessive".
The judge said to his credit he entered early guilty pleas and co-operated with gardai.
She imposed a five-year sentence backdated to earlier this month and with the final two years suspended for two years.
Det Sgt Walsh said the individual sums misappropriated range from €75,000 to €1.55m. The Law Society has paid out compensation to six of the victims but did not cover the loss of €750,000 to the Dublin Archdiocese because the compensation fund pays out to a maximum of €700,000.
Since the thefts came to light, O'Ceallaigh has paid €71,000 over to the Law Society and to the Dublin Archdiocese. The net total loss is just over €2,325,000.
Padraig Dwyer SC, defending, said his client is a "man of contradictions" as he has spent much of his life devoting free time, energy and legal services to advancing the cause of people who have nothing.
He said O'Ceallaigh is ashamed and wished to apologise to the people he has hurt.