A jeweller who conned an elderly Cork woman out of the full value of a Cartier brooch, sold at auction in Geneva, has been remanded in custody for sentencing.
Michael Wall, 38, with and address at 2 Marionville, Alexandra Road, St Luke’s, Cork, appeared for trial at Cork Circuit Criminal Court wearing a dark suit and tie, with a silk handkerchief in his breast pocket.
He denied any wrongdoing in his dealings with the 84-year-old woman from Kanturk and her daughter who asked him to sell the valuable piece.
The jury delivered unanimous guilty verdicts on four counts and a majority 10-2 guilty verdict on producing a fake Sotheby’s document in the course of the fraudulent transaction.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said Wall’s status had changed as a result of the guilty verdicts delivered by the jury and remanded him for sentencing on June 29.
Wall said he was in the jewellery business for the past 12 years.
After the guilty verdicts were delivered, Donal O’Sullivan defence barrister said of Wall: “He is attending a psychiatrist. He has been attending a psychiatrist for the past year. He does have general medical problems as well.
"He is attending a psychiatrist once a month for the past year. He has had suicidal attempts in the past.” Even after the verdicts were delivered, Mr O’Sullivan said on Wall’s behalf: “He is maintaining his innocence.” In essence, Wall said he did not forge any document and he paid the family the price he agreed to pay them, and sold the brooch in his own name and not in theirs.
Wall faced trial by judge and jury on charges of paying the owner of the Cartier brooch a lot less than it made at auction in Geneva. He pleaded not guilty to five charges.
The main charge concerned the theft of over €16,000 which represented the difference between the sum of approximately €44,000 Sotheby’s paid to Wall and the €27,800 he paid to the owner of the piece.
Other charges related to a fake document purported to be from Sotheby’s. The family who asked Wall to sell the brooch said they received the document in the post after repeatedly asking Wall for a receipt. He denied sending it.
Arabel Bishop, director of Sotheby’s in Ireland, testified the document was a fake and not issued by the company. Wall agreed it appeared to be a fake but denied generating it or sending it.
Two other charges related to pieces of much lesser value. He was found guilty of stealing them, with a total value of €750.
The defendant testified he knew nothing about the fake receipt. He claimed to have told the owner and her daughter he would put the brooch in his name for the Swiss auction and would pay them the euro equivalent of stg£25,000 if the brooch reached its reserve price.
Barrister Mr O’Sullivan said that the jury might not decide the defendant was the businessman of the year but they could not decide he was a criminal. “If he made a good deal for himself it does not mean he has committed a crime,” Mr O’Sullivan BL said. He said the official Sotheby’s brochure listed the Cartier brooch lot as being owned by “a gentleman”.
Imelda Kelly prosecution barrister submitted to the jury: “The understanding at all times was that he would place the items for auction on her behalf. That was fundamental. Any other suggestion simply does not hold water.”
During cross-examination of the defendant, she said: “It is crystal clear this family took you into their home and their friendship, they trusted you to get a sale at auction.”
He replied: “I have to disagree.”
As well as being convicted of stealing over €16,000 and two brooches worth €385 each, and forging the document, he was also convicted that, in giving the woman the cheque for €27,800 as the true proceeds of the sale, he was doing so to induce her to believe that it represented the true value of the Sotheby’s sale on November 14, 2012, in order to make a gain for himself.