Former solicitor stole €2.8m from clients

A former solicitor described as a "devout Christian" stole €2.8m from client accounts in his family’s law firm and used the money to fund investment properties and buy stocks and shares.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring said Ruairí Ó Ceallaigh, aged 42, had used the money for the “ultimate in gambling” and had “gambled on the gamble”.

Det Sgt Paschal Walsh told the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that one theft involved €1,551,366 from a client who had left his estate to the archdiocese of Dublin.

Ó Ceallaigh of Collegeland, Summerhill, Co Meath, pleaded guilty to seven counts of dishonestly appropriating €2,816,566, the property of Seán Ó Ceallaigh and Company, and having designated these sums as credited to seven clients’ accounts on dates between July 2006 and May 2010.

Ó Ceallaigh told gardaí he took the money with the intention of paying it back. “I was under the false belief I could make the money back on the stock market and make right the wrong that I had done,” he said.

Judge Ring remanded Ó Ceallaigh in custody for sentence later this month so that she can consider a large number of character references.

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 a maximum of €700,000.

Since the thefts came to light, Ó 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, defending, said this 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.

Det Sgt Walsh agreed Ó Ceallaigh was “driven by Christian values” and was deeply remorseful.


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