A bogus charity collector is facing four months in prison after he was caught with a bucket and t-shirt outside a supermarket, supposedly fundraising for the homeless.
John McDonagh, of Mill St, Birr in Co Offaly, pleaded guilty to the offence at Spar in Kinsale on June 16 last, with Bandon District Court told that the 47-year-old was spotted outside the store with a bucket and a t-shirt emblazoned with the words 'Please support the homeless of Cork'.
However, McDonagh was not authorised to carry out the collection and Judge James McNulty heard that he had a previous conviction last November for a similar offence in Youghal in east Cork in 2019.
The court also heard that he currently has an appeal lodged against a conviction— handed down on June 4 last, in Bandon District Court — for holding a charity collection without a permit and using a false instrument at the Riverview Shopping Centre in Bandon in Co Cork on December 2 last, for which he had received two six month sentences.
Judge McNulty suggested that Mr McDonagh might not have been entirely candid with his solicitor, Eamonn Fleming, which he said raised serious concerns over Mr McDonagh's credibility and sincerity, particularly as the June 16 offence was carried out just 12 days after he had been found guilty of the December offence, and following a two-hour trial in June which included testimony from a representative of the Simon Community that Mr McDonagh was not an official charity collector.
Regarding the latest incident, Sgt Paul Kelly said a garda on patrol observed Mr McDongh outside Spar in Kinsale and asked him for his details and to see his collection permit.
Initially, Mr McDonagh gave a different name and pointed to an ID badge he was wearing. However, on arrival at Kinsale Garda Station he told gardaí his real name and said he was collecting without a permit. The sum of €31.50 had been collected in his bucket and was seized, as were the bucket, t-shirt and badge.
The court was told Mr McDonagh had 39 previous convictions. Mr Fleming said Mr McDonagh was a carer to his wife and their daughter.
Mr Fleming admitted the crime was "reprehensible" but said it needed to be kept in proportion, with the small sum of money collected and in the context of large-scale white-collar scandals in the charity sector in recent years. He said his client, who had brought €250 to court, had referred to the June 4 conviction, and that it was under appeal.
Judge McNulty said: "He is a long way from home and you have to wonder if he is a carer for his wife and his daughter, you would wonder why he is not back in Birr minding them?"
"This court takes a grave view of his deceitful, dishonest collection of money from trusting members of the public who take him at face value when he is just a conman who has travelled far from his native place."
He sentenced him to four months in prison and with an appeal lodged said a condition of release on bail pending that appeal would be that Mr McDonagh stays out of Co Cork, apart from legal appointments.