Man jailed for giving fake cheque to charity

A convicted sex offender and international conman donated a bogus cheque to a Limerick charity for stg£100,000 (€147,000) because he wanted people to think "well of him", a court has heard.

Scotsman John Cronin (aged 34) with various addresses here and in the UK, was jailed for two months at Limerick District Court today, just hours after he was arrested while trying to flee the city.

The made headlines earlier this week after it emerged that he presented a fake cheque to Limerick Animal Welfare at a charity function last weekend.

The smooth-talking conman, who was even thanked by the Mayor of Limerick for the donation, lied to the charity that he was a successful barrister with terminal cancer and wanted to give the cheque to a worthy cause.

However, on Monday gardaí were alerted by the charity, which became concerned about the validity of the cheque after learning of his previous convictions for fraud and sex offences.

An investigation was launched and Mr Cronin was arrested at lunchtime today at Colbert Station in Limerick city as he was preparing to board a trian.

It is understood he had been in the Limerick area for the past week attending an alcohol treatment centre.

The 34-year-old, who pleaded guilty to having a cheque, which he knew to be false, contrary to Section 29 (2) of the Theft and Fraud Offences Act, insisted on representing himself at today's court hearing.

When asked by Judge Tom O'Donnell what his motivation was for the 'trick', the unemployed Scotsman replied: "I wanted people to think well of me, and for a brief time they did."

He apologised for the distress he had caused and added that it was never his intention to gain financially from the fraudulent transaction.

"It seems to have got a lot larger than I anticipated," he said. Detective Garda Margaret Nagle told the court that Mr Cronin had caused hurt to a lot of people and added that the cheque had been drawn on a bank account that had "insufficient funds".

Inspector Jim Ryan told the court that Cronin had a total of 21 previous convictions for offences committed both here and in the UK including fraud and robbery.

Mr Cronin was also jailed in 1992 in Scotand for a brutal sex assault on a Conservative Party activist at her flat in Edinburgh.

Before imposing sentence at Limerick District Court today, Judge Tom O'Donnell described the case as "one of the most unusual" cases he had ever come across.

He said Mr Cronin's actions had caused hurt to Limerick Animal Welfare, which thought it had benefited from his donation.

The judge said he acknowledged Mr Cronin's guilty plea but imposed a two-month prison sentence because of the "number of previous convictions" he had amassed.

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