Family claim woman stole €130k from retired parish priest
A WESTPORT woman stands accused of stealing over €130,000 from a former parish priest.
The family of Fr Vincent Kelly (86) is claiming that Mary McLoughlin, of Corragaun, Kilmeena, Westport, last year befriended him and then fraudulently misappropriated over €130,000 of his money.
The family has brought a High Court action against Ms McLoughlin, saying she ‘preyed on’ Fr Kelly, and that the cleric has suffered great financial loss and damage due to her ‘deception, fraud, deceit and theft’.
At the High Court, Mr Justice Roderick Murphy made a number of orders, including one prohibiting Ms McLoughlin, from reducing her assets below €51,713.06.
Freezing orders were also issued against Ms McLoughlin’s nephew, Thomas McLoughlin, who cannot dissipate his assets below €39,000, and her niece Tara McLoughlin, who cannot reduce her assets below €25,000.
The High Court action was brought by Fr Kelly’s sister, Ann Geary, of Pontoon, Foxford, who has power of attorney over the priest’s affairs. The orders were made on an ex-parte (one side only) basis. The matter was made returnable to a date later this month.
The court heard that Fr Kelly, who served as a parish priest in Palmerstown, Co Dublin, retired to his native Co Mayo in 2001. He was active in his community and carried out relief work. He developed health problems, however, and his memory began to fade.
In an affidavit, Ms Geary said she first learned of Ms McLoughlin’s existence in late 2011 when her brother told her that a friend, who was also a distant relative, was going to move into Fr Kelly’s house in Westport to keep him company and act as his housekeeper and secretary.
He did not tell Ms Geary who this person was, but said he had given this person money because the person was at risk of losing their house to the bank.
Ms Geary said she became suspicious about this virtual stranger. After making enquires, she was told that the person was Ms McLoughlin, a single woman in her 50s or 60s who worked as a senior social welfare officer in Westport.
Fr Kelly’s family, she said, was unhappy about Ms McLoughlin’s relationship with Fr Kelly. Over the last number of months, Fr Kelly’s health deteriorated, and he was hospitalised. Since leaving hospital, Fr Kelly has lived with his sister.
The court heard that when the family subsequently conducted inquiries into Fr Kelly’s affairs, they made a number of discoveries that both shocked and upset them.
They found that Ms McLoughlin had been given joint control over bank accounts that Fr Kelly had at AIB. However, Ms Geary said that when Fr Kelly was asked, he had no memory of giving such powers to Ms McLoughlin.
Ms Geary said that Fr Kelly told them he only had accounts with An Post and AIB. However, the family also discovered an account with Ulster Bank in his name.
When they made enquiries to Ulster Bank, the court heard, they discovered that between April and June of this year, €123,000 of Fr Kelly’s money was lodged and removed or transferred by Ms McLoughlin. That account was now empty.
They also learned from the bank that Ms McLoughlin had been given full signing authority by Fr Kelly.
The family claims that some of the cash that came into the account came from two Post Office Saving Certificate Cheques made out to Fr Kelly, worth more than €50,000. In addition, money from the Ulster Bank account was transferred to Ms McLoughlin’s nephew Thomas and niece Tara.
Fr Kelly’s family were also alarmed to learn that last March, Ms McLoughlin made arrangements for the priest’s post to be given directly to her.
On several occasions in May and June 2012, cash withdrawals from Fr Kelly’s AIB account were made from an ATM at a petrol station in Westport. Ms Geary claims that on one of the dates in question, Fr Kelly, who did not usually need such large amounts of cash, was in Pontoon and could not have had access to the ATM in Westport. Legal proceedings in the case are continuing.