A 79-year-old woman claims she was scammed by a man called John Moriarty, who she said told her he was James Connors, after paying him €800 for two hours of work.
However, the case against the young man was dismissed at Cork District Court.
The pensioner said the man, who said he was James Connors and another man who said his name was James too, arrived at the house in Carrigaline at around 10am, left at 1pm and were gone for an hour in the middle when they left to buy a sheet of light timber panel for a barna shed. She said the panel cost €150 but when she checked at the local co-op store where they bought it, the cost was €32.99.
The widow said this to the defendant, telling him on the day, “They don’t cost that”. She said he responded by saying the panel was pressurised wood.
“I was feeling pressurised myself,” the 79-year-old said in the witness box at Cork District Court.
When the work was complete the defendant told her that because of additional jobs they had done, over and above power-washing and cleaning the gutters, the price of the job was now €800 and not the €200 agreed at the outset.
Judge Marian O’Leary dismissed the charge against John Moriarty of Ballyspillane, Killarney, County Kerry, and said: “Having regard to all the evidence before the court – and in particular in relation to the written agreement on that note – I have to dismiss the charge.”
The householder told the young man on the day in July 2019 she would not keep a lot of cash in her house. He said he would drive her down to the ATM where she could get the maximum withdrawal of €600 and he would come back for the remaining €200.
She actually drove herself to the ATM and paid him €600.
She reported the matter to Detective Garda Ian Breen that day, July 12, 2019. While the detective was speaking to her at her home the phone rang and it was the defendant.
The detective asked the caller – who said he was James Connors – to call to the garda station in Carrigaline the following day about the complaint of a scam. The caller said he would, but never showed up.
Three months later the complainant was in the garage and she saw the front page of The Echo which contained a picture of the man who had called to her house that day. She was 100% sure it was the same man. She said he had a likeness to the late Brian Lenihan, former Minister for Finance. The caption on the photograph identified him as John Moriarty.
Det. Garda Breen interviewed him and he said he was very sorry the lady felt that way. He also said: “The price was a bit high. I didn’t intend to overcharge her.” He added that he would repay her.
Michael Quinlan, defence solicitor, said the charge stated that the defendant dishonestly by deception got her to hand over €600 to make a gain for himself contrary to the Theft and Fraud Act.
But he said: “There is no deception. There is no dishonesty here. The work was done. She accepts that. There may not have been value for money. She may not have been happy with the work but the work was done and she agreed to have the work done.”
Inspector Anne Marie Guiney said: “I disagree. Mr Moriarty created a false impression – he said his name was James and signed his name as James. When she said he was (the trusted tradesman’s son) he did not say he was not the person she thought he was.”
John Moriarty said he never asked her about any work and that she was the one who wanted the jobs done. He said every job was written down and the price agreed before he did it. He also denied Det. Garda Breen’s comment that the panel on the shed was screwed on upside down.
He denied ever saying his name was James Connors and he said the woman must have gotten mixed up. “You felt bad because you know you deceived her,” Inspector Guiney said. The defendant replied: “That is your opinion.”
The pensioner said matters first commenced when she was at her local Maxol station in Carrigaline where she saw the defendant and others in a van and he greeted her. She asked him if she knew him and he said that he had done work for her a number of times before. The witness said she referred by name to the trusted local tradesman she had used for a number of years and presumed that the defendant was his son.