JEWELLER CONNED KANTURK PENSIONER
SUSPENDED SENTENCE AFTER ELDERLY WOMAN CONNED OUT OF OVER €17,000 IN ‘DESPICABLY MEAN’ CRIME INVOLVING THE AUCTION OF A CARTIER BROOCH
A JEWELLER who conned an 84 year old North Cork woman out of almost €20,000 when selling a valuable Cartier brooch at auction at Sotheby’s has been given a suspended prison sentence after a judge heard that he made good progress on a course aimed at addressing a number of mental health issues.
Michael Wall, who had been in the jewellery business for around 12 years, had been convicted by a jury at Cork Circuit Criminal Court in June 2017 of a total of five offences relating to his handling of the sale of a valuable Cartier brooch belonging to an elderly woman from Kanturk in North Cork.
Wall (40), with an address at Marionville, Alexandra Road, St Luke’s, Cork, had denied the charges but the jury delivered unanimous guilty verdicts on four counts and a majority 10-2 guilty verdict on a fifth charge of producing a fake Sotheby’s document in the course of the fraudulent transaction.
The main charge concerned the theft of over €16,000 which represented the difference between the sum of approximately €44,000 Sotheby’s paid to Wall for a Cartier brooch obtained from the pensioner and the €27,800 he subsequently paid her for the piece.
The court heard how the woman’s daughter had made contact with Wall and travelled to Mallow to collect him and bring him to their home in Kanturk where he told them that the Cartier brooch was worth anything up to €70,000 or €80,000 and he promised to contact Sotheby’s on their behalf.
He later contacted them to say that he had spoken to Sotheby’s about selling the jewellery and they later met him at a restaurant in Cork where they handed over the Cartier brooch and two other brooches to auction them at Sotheby’s.
Wall later rang them to say the brooch had sold for 40,000 Swiss Francs at a Sotheby’s at auction in Geneva and in December 2012 the woman and her daughter met Wall in Cork city and he gave them a bank draft for €27,801, and she gave him a cheque for €500, even though he said he didn’t want any money.
The woman said that she got a bill from Wall for €2,251 and he also sent her a receipt which he said came from Sotheby’s which showed the hammer price of the brooch was 44,000 Swiss Francs. However, when the woman’s solicitor, Michelle O’Mahony, checked on-line she found the brooch sold for 71,000 Swiss Francs.
Arabel Bishop, director of Sotheby’s in Ireland, told Wall’s trial at Cork Circuit Criminal Court that the document that the woman received, which purported to be a receipt issued by Sotheby’s, was a fake and not issued by the company.
Wall agreed the document appeared to be fake but he denied generating or sending it and claimed he told the owner and her daughter he would put the brooch on sale in his own name for the Swiss auction and would pay them the euro equivalent of stg£25,000 if the brooch reached its reserve price.
Wall denied in cross-examination by prosecution counsel Imelda Kelly BL that he had betrayed the family’s trust by pocketing over €16,000 for himself after they had taken him into their home and their friendship, trusting him to get them a sale at auction.
Addressing the jury, defence barrister Donal O’Sullivan BL said the fact that his client may have made a good deal for himself did not mean he had committed a crime and he pointed out that the Sotheby’s catalogue listed the Cartier brooch lot as being owned by “a gentleman”.
However, prosecution barrister Imelda Kelly submitted to the jury: “The understanding at all times was that he would place the items for auction on her behalf. That was fundamental. Any other suggestion simply does not hold water.”
The jury found Wall guilty of stealing over €17,000, forging the Sotheby’s document and that, in giving the woman a bank draft for €27,800, he was inducing her to believe it was the true proceeds of the sale in order to make a gain for himself, as well as two other theft charges of brooches worth €385 each.
Detective Garda Padraig Reddington, who investigated the case, read a victim impact statement on behalf of the elderly woman at an earlier court hearing where she told how Wall’s deceit had impacted on her and her family.
The woman said that she had brought the case simply to get “justice for being wronged” by someone whom she had trusted and brought into her family home to help when she decided to put the valuable brooch for sale.
‘I have had so many sleepless nights. I now feel very vulnerable in dealing with people. It has, after 84 years of life, changed how I view and interact with people. I am Photo: Provision
now, more than ever, aware that you can no longer take someone at their word and that trust needs to be earned,’ her statement read.
The woman pointed out that she was at a loss of over €17,000 as a result of Wall’s deceit and she told of her shock when she learned that Wall had conned her out of the money while all the time pretending to have done his best for her by selling the brooch at Sotheby’s auction in Geneva in 2012.
‘My solicitor looked up the sale on the internet and that was the first time I heard the true value of the sale of the brooch. I felt I could have died with the shock and couldn’t believe someone could be so dishonest … I felt stupid for trusting someone who has, now so clearly in hindsight, done me so wrong.’
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin remanded Wall in custody for eight weeks in June 2017 to see if a place was available for him on the HSE Endeavour Programme, which deals with people with personality disorders, and last week at the resumed hearing he heard Wall had made good progress on the 12 month course.
“This was a mean, despicable offence where he gained the trust of his victim and then abused it,” said Judge Ó Donnabháin before noting the progress he had made on the Endeavour course, which was a first step towards rehabilitation, and he imposed a three year sentence but suspended it in full.
Michael Wall, who is now in a HSE programme for people with personality disorders, received a three year prison sentence, which was suspended in full.