Castledawson man who swindled £15,000 from Alzheimer’s sufferer, given time to pay back money

Limerick Courthouse
Limerick Courthouse

A Castledawson man who swindled more than £15,000 from an elderly Alzheimer’s sufferer to pay for his wedding and gambling debts was adjourned on Friday to give him time to pay the money back.

Releasing 29-year-old Cormac McGuckin on bail at Antrim Crown Court, Judge Desmond Marrinan ordered him back to court in two weeks to face sentence.

McGuckin, from Broagh Village in Castledawson faces a maximum sentence of ten years jail after he 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.

Prosecuting QC Roseanne McCormick 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.

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 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.

Although Ms McCormick told the judge it was the Crown case that McGuckin had forged signatures on those cheques, defence lawyer Sean Doherty submitted they had been pre-signed by Mr Halliday whose health, the court heard, had deteriorated significantly to such a degree that he cannot remember any of the fraudulent transactions.

The prosecution and defence lawyers could also not agree on exactly how much had been stolen and how much the bank had paid back, Mr Doherty submitting the total was around £15,000 while Ms McCormick said it was closer to £17,500.

Arrested and interviewed, initially in May and again in December 2013, McGuckin claimed that Mr Halliday had agreed to loan him money but as Judge Marrinan commented, a person would be reluctant to voluntarily have such a large overdraft “for family let alone a friend.”

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.

Ms McCormick said given the two sets of offences overlapped and the “breach of trust” in his crimes against Mr Halliday , both were aggravating factors in the case.

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.

Adjourning the case for two weeks, Judge Marrinan said that when the case reconvenes, he wants to be told exactly how much is outstanding and the current health of McGuckin’s victim.