Castledawson man jailed for stealing £15,000 from an elderly Alzheimer’s sufferer

Cormac McGuckin from Castledawson
Cormac McGuckin from Castledawson

A fraudster who swindled more than £15,000 from an elderly Alzheimer’s sufferer to pay for his wedding and gambling debts wept in court as he was handed a 20 month jail term.

Last Friday at Antrim Crown Court, Judge Desmond Marrinan warned 29-year-old conman Cormac McGuckin that he faced an “inevitable” prison sentence for the “quite shocking” fraud perpetrated on a Good Samaritan and on Monday the judge saw that warning through.

Ordering the married father-of-two to spend eight months in jail and a year on supervised licence, the judge told the pathological gambler he had befriended his elderly victim before abusing the trust he had placed in McGuckin.

McGuckin, from Broagh Village in Castledawson had earlier pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud by false representation, 11 charges of theft and a further offence of impersonating a police officer, all of which occurred on various dates between 27 October 2012 and 29 April 2013.

He had been due to be sentenced six weeks ago but that was adjourned to allow him an extended time to gather back what he stole as restitution but the court heard McGuckin had not managed to scrape anything together and had to hand over the £3,800 he had saved to get back the family car after it had been repossessed by a “log book loan company.”

Prosecuting QC Roseanne McCormick had previously outlined how McGuckin’s frauds came to light when his elderly 71-year-old victim James Halliday told his son the bank had contacted him about numerous transactions on his account which had left him with a £10,000 overdraft.

Antrim Court House. INAT51-435AC

Antrim Court House. INAT51-435AC

Mr Halliday’s son looked into the matter and in turn contacted the police when it transpired that cheques had been drawn on the account “either in favour of the defendant or his then fiancée Maura Marshall” who has since married the defendant.

Ms McCormick told the court there was “absolutely no question or suggestion” that Mrs McGuckin had done anything wrong.

At the time of the offences McGuckin had been working for Pieroth Ltd, a wine ordering and delivery company of which Mr Halliday was a customer and the two men had become friends, said the lawyer.

She said investigations revealed that McGuckin had used his victim’s customer account to order around £2,000 worth of wine, those transactions related to the two counts of fraud while the offences of theft related to McGuckin writing out cheques.

McGuckin was “ genuinely contrite, genuinely ashamed and remorseful” for what he had done but that he deserved substantial credit for pleading guilty at an early stage

Arrested and interviewed, initially in May and again in December 2013, McGuckin claimed that Mr Halliday had agreed to loan him money but later made full and frank confessions to what he had done.

Ms McCormick revealed that during an interview with a probation officer for the pre-sentence report, McGuckin had admitted using the stolen money to pay for part of his wedding and to pay gambling debts, further revealing that McGuckin had admitted doing something similar in his previous job.

On 18 December 2012 at Antrim Magistrates Court , McGuckin was handed a one month jail term suspended for two years when he admitted one count of fraud and 13 of theft when he “systematically” used his previous employers credit cars facilities to steal around £1,000.

The last count of impersonating a police officer came when McGuckin telephoned the Wedded Bliss wedding shop in Portglenone.

Ms McCormick said McGuckin’s soon to be wife had called to the shop to collect her tiara and wedding vale but couldn’t because of police queries regarding credit card transactions.

Claiming to be a Constable Watters, McGuckin called the shop to say it was fine to release the items, behaviour labelled as “bizarre” by the judge.

Making his plea in mitigation last Friday, Mr Doherty said McGuckin “stands to lose a great deal....he will almost inevitably lose his liberty, will likely lose his employment and will lose his ability to provide for his family,” all of which, conceded the lawyer “is entirely of his own doing.”

Mr Doherty submitted that McGuckin was “ genuinely contrite, genuinely ashamed and remorseful” for what he had done but that he deserved substantial credit for pleading guilty at an early stage.

“The sword of Damocles has been hanging over this defendant,” said the lawyer adding that knowing what sentence was likely to come had caused him additional stress.

Judge Marrinan ordered him to undergo psychological treatment for his gambling addiction.