Smooth-talking John Cronin, aged 34, from East Lothian in Scotland, was toasted by the city’s Mayor Diarmuid Scully at a public event for Limerick Animal Welfare (LAW) on Friday night.
Cronin had presented the group with a cheque for £100,000. But what Mr Scully did not realise was that the man he was praising was a convicted criminal.
Mr Scully said yesterday: “He was very plausible. I met him at the function in Monaleen GAA club.
“He said he was a successful barrister and had terminal cancer and wanted to give money to worthy causes. Obviously it was a first move to work his way into people’s confidence.
“But as soon as the animal welfare people found out quickly who he was, they told me and I informed the gardaí.”
Cronin has a long list of convictions in Ireland, England and Scotland.
A garda source said: “That cheque is about to bounce all the way from Limerick back to the UK. Officially the cheque has not gone through yet, but this is not the first time he has tried something like this and it will certainly bounce.”
Cronin even requested and received a receipt for the cheque.
Later that night at a LAW table quiz, Mr Scully thanked Cronin for his donation to the voluntary group and welcomed him to Limerick.
One LAW members said: “When we met him first, he was well-dressed with a lovely suit, shirt and tie. He had a gold bracelet with a religious medal and a gold claddagh ring.
“He spent the night drinking Guinness but did not manage to win the table quiz. He shook everyone’s hands and was well spoken.”
After spending Saturday with animal volunteers in the city, Cronin disappeared. Gardaí are now studying CCTV to record Cronin’s movements.
It was only after he had gone that animal volunteers discovered his record.
Cronin was given a life sentence in 1992 for a frenzied attack on a Conservative Party activist at her Edinburgh flat.
The jail term was reduced on appeal to six years.
His victim, who was known as Judy X, was so outraged by the move she stood up at the Conservative Party Conference and condemned the Scottish justice system in a speech.
After his release in 1996, he travelled to Limerick.
It was during his time here that he posed as a priest and tried to befriend politicians.
Cronin developed the knack of passing himself off as a priest to obtain food and lodgings from priests and stole from them.
Cronin once pretended to celebrate a Mass.
He also tricked his way into the Dáil bar pretending he was a visiting MP from the British parliament.
He was jailed in February 2002 for an armed raid on a bank in Waterford during which he threatened staff with a starting pistol and fled with £2,500.
Just after his release he robbed an 80-year-old pensioner in Britain.
In August 2003, he was jailed after conning jewellery, flowers, gifts and cigarettes from businesses and admitting to more than 50 charges of deception.
The career criminal wrote cheques totalling £8,242.94 from a bank account he set up with Barclays in Oldham, Greater Manchester, despite the fact it had never contained a penny.
Psychiatrists have deemed Cronin “incurable”.