Kenneth Lyons, 31, of Willison Meadows, Tower, Blarney, Co Cork, was sentenced to five years with the final 18 months suspended by Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.
The victim who was 70 years old at the time of the crime at his home in the area of Wolfe Tone Street, Cork, on Sunday, June 26, 2011, had withdrawn his life savings from the bank because of his fears about the safety of the banks.
Detective Garda Aidan Forrest said the pensioner living alone in the house was to have gone on pilgrimage to Medjugorje later that day. He was putting a case in his car before 7am on that Sunday morning when Lyons approached, identified himself as a detective garda from Gurranabraher with information that the man’s house was going to be robbed.
Lyons said surveillance was in position and he needed to see the money to mark it.
“He brought him into his home and upstairs. He handed him an envelope containing €28,000.
“He grabbed the envelope, he ran down the stairs and ran off,” Det Garda Forrest said.
The pensioner followed him but could not keep up and saw Lyons sitting into the passenger seat of a silver car that was driven away.
Later caught and charged with theft and impersonation of a police officer, Lyons got bail and fled to England and had to be arrested in England on a European arrest warrant 14 months later and brought back to Cork for trial.
He admitted stealing the €28,000 in cash and a charge of making a statement calculated to suggest falsely that he was a member of An Garda Síochána.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said: “An elderly man was deliberately identified for his age and vulnerability and preyed upon. The State says no violence was used but this man’s home was entered, the money he had to bury himself, perhaps, the money he had gathered over the years (was taken). Because of his fear of the banks and their collapse he had gathered it into his house.
“One can only imagine the trauma this man suffered. This was an appallingly mean offence.
“One would have to be very disconnected from society not to realise the harm this does to elderly people who already feel imprisoned in their homes. Now to have this happen in their own home must be appalling.”
The judge said the defendant played fast and loose with the system after his arrest, claiming he had no drug problem when looking for bail and trying to blame a drug problem when it came to sentencing.
Lyons cried as he was being sentenced.
He said yesterday, “I am very sorry for what I done, I didn’t mean to do it, I am sorry for what I done.”
A sum of €18,900 in cash was found in the defendant’s possession when arrested. The balance was paid in recent days.
Defence barrister, Donal McCarthy, said of Lyons’s attitude to the case, “He wants to be shut of it, he has turned his life around. He wants to get on with the future.”