Woman changes her plea to guilty

A woman has admitted in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court obtaining over £210,000 from several businessmen by pretending to be a supplier of Guinness goods.

A woman has admitted in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court obtaining over £210,000 from several businessmen by pretending to be a supplier of Guinness goods.

Margaret Whelan (aged 43), Llewellyn Court, Ballinteer and formerly of Pine Valley Park, Rathfarnham, pleaded guilty to five counts of falsely obtaining cheques and cash worth a total of £211, 000 from four businessmen on dates between September and December 1999.

Whelan originally pleaded not guilty but changed her plea after a jury was sworn in for her trial before Judge Joseph Matthews who remanded her on continuing bail for sentencing on December 17.

Detective Garda Liam Fahy told prosecuting counsel, Ms Tara Burns BL, that Mr Micheal O'Callaghan had a financial services business and had placed advertisements in newspapers.

He was contacted by Whelan and went to her home to discuss a mortgage. She told him she worked supplying sports clothing to schools and she had an opportunity to obtain a contract with Guinness for clothing for an upcoming hurling final.

She said there was stock at Dublin Port which was meant to be supplied by a company which had gone bankrupt. She would be able to take the place of this company and transfer the goods from the port to the Guiness Brewery if she was able to get some money together quickly.

Mr O'Callaghan thought it sounded like a good business deal so he agreed to get involved. They had some meetings, during which she would receive phone calls and say they were from supplyers pressuring her for money.

Det Gda Fahy said Whelan told Mr O'Callaghan she had money in Barclays Bank but was having difficulties with bank drafts. Mr O'Callaghan agreed to write out some cheques for her on the basis that she would later put £70, 000 into his account

He wrote out five cheques to specific people but he did not want them cashed until he recieved the money. He contacted his bank and discovered two cheques for a total of £19, 000 had been cashed.

Whelan met with Mr O'Callaghan again and said a Mr Albert Lestrange, who was one of the people a cheque was addressed to, was a supplier who was threatening to sell the goods if he was not paid. Whelan said he was looking for £83, 000.

Mr O'Callaghan did not have enough money in his account but he asked his brother, Shane, who organised a bank draft. This was handed over to Mr Lestrange.

Whelan also told Mr O'Callaghan a similar story about a Ms Deidre Jennings who was looking for £24, 000. Once again, Mr Shane O'Callaghan wrote out a personal cheque.

Ms Burns noted that the O'Callaghans were at a loss to a total of Ir£102,000 to date.

Det Gda Fahy said Mr Anthony Johnson had known Whelan for some time. She approached him in a cafe in Dundrum and told him about the clothing deal and that her contact in Guinness was a Mr Jerry O'Brien. She said she needed a total of £40,000, with £10,000 immediately, and the rest within a week.

Mr Johnson contacted his friend, Mr Anthony Murphy, and they gave Whelan the money in cash. They have since been paid back £6,000.

Det Gda Fahy said Whelan got another £10,000 from a Mr Raymond Ward which had been paid back and £3,800 from Ms Ann Stewart, who was a friend.

Ms Stewart gave Whelan a cheque she had otained from a credit union believeing it was to be used as collateral to get the money from someone else but was not expecting it to be cashed.

Det Gda Fahy said Whelan was using the money to pay other people she was in debt to. There were no goods at Dublin Port and Guinness had no record of a "Jerry O'Brien" working for them. Whelan had asked somebody to pose as "Jerry O'Brien".

He said Mr Lestrange and the other people Mr O'callaghan wrote out cheques for were real people but not suppliers. They were owed money by Whelan for a previous clothing deal.

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