A Limerick woman duped a legal secretary into not holding on to a sum of €28,700 that should have been retained for the woman’s former partner as the repayment of money he had lent to her.
Mary Fitzgerald, 64, of Rose Cottage, Ballygriffin, Patrickswell, Limerick, forged a document that appeared to show her ex-partner had already been paid and the solicitor’s office did not need to retain the money for him.
Detective Sergeant Stephen Fuller said the matter came to light when Ms Fitzgerald’s ex-partner, Thomas Greaney, contacted the solicitor's office for payment of the €28,700 which Mary Fitzgerald owed him.
An investigation was commenced and Mary Fitzgerald admitted forging the form that appeared to show she had paid her ex-partner what she owed him.
Det Sgt Fuller said the background was that Mary Fitzgerald had been the victim of a serious traffic accident involving a truck and her car, for which she was awarded almost €100,000 in a High Court civil case.
This money was being paid to her through the offices of Frank Buttimer solicitors in Cork. However, €28,700 was to have been retained for her ex-partner. Her deception was to forge a form indicating this matter had been resolved to the satisfaction of Mr Greaney and purportedly signed by him and that the full €100,000 could be paid to her.
Defence barrister Patrick McCarthy said the offence arose out of the breakdown of a long-term relationship between Ms Fitzgerald and Mr Greaney. He said she had since made full restitution, paying Mr Greaney what he had initially loaned to her.
Judge Brian O’Callaghan imposed a two-and-a-half-year suspended sentence on the defendant. He said the primary victim in the case was the legal secretary who had been duped by the accused and he ordered Mary Fitzgerald to pay €5,000 compensation to her.
“Ms Fitzgerald has been found guilty by a jury of two most serious offences – making a gain by deception on April 28 2017, at the main offices of Frank Buttimer Solicitors and using a false instrument.
“It must go out that people cannot go out and act like this and consider themselves immune from consequences. Whether it was out of greed or out of spite that is for Ms Fitzgerald to determine in her quiet moments.
“Not only were her actions pre-meditated, they were cunning and deceitful. They preyed on honesty, integrity [of the legal secretary], who no doubt found it upsetting and distressing.”
The judge said there was no fault whatever on the part of the legal secretary and he added many legal firms relied on long-serving honest people like her who were often the unsung heroes of those firms. Judge O’Callaghan said the legal secretary should use the money for a holiday or a number of holidays or whatever she saw fit.
Judge O’Callaghan said the defendant’s ex-partner, Thomas Greaney, “did feed into the situation with less than candour in his romantic engagements and being loose with allowing the defendant to sign for him on other occasions”.
Det Sgt Fuller confirmed that since the crime was committed there was a full resolution of the matter between the defendant and Mr Greaney in a civil court.