A former finance chief at the country’s largest hospice has been jailed for 27 months for deceiving the institution into selling a foreign property left to it in a will for a fraction of what it was worth.
enis Maguire (65) was motivated by greed and abused the trust placed in him by Our Lady’s Hospice and Care Services, where he was head of finance between 2002 and 2016, Judge Martin Nolan said.
The sentence was handed down today at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court after the accountant pleaded guilty to the offense last month.
Judge Nolan said Maguire, of Ballybrack Road, Glencullen, Co Dublin, could have been jailed for between four and five years were it not for mitigating factors, including an early plea, expressions of remorse and the likelihood he would not reoffend.
Maguire’s admission came despite the fact he previously instructed lawyers to threaten defamation proceedings against the Irish Independent in 2017 after the newspaper revealed the existence of a Garda investigation into the matter and that Maguire had been dismissed by the hospice.
During a plea for mitigation, his counsel, Patrick Gageby SC, said the court had dealt with a number of cases before involving “a pillar of the community who was in a position of trust”.
He said Maguire had brought “shame” on himself and through his own fault had left his reputation “in tatters”.
The court heard the property at the center of the case is a Marbella townhouse left in a bequest to the hospice by Co Waterford woman Agnes Phelan in late 2008.
Located in the Aloha Lake Village complex in the Costa del Sol resort, it was sold five-and-a-half years later for just €37,500, even though it was worth around €240,000 at the time.
The hospice ended up losing over €28,000 on the property deal when the cost of maintaining it for several years and other charges were taken into account.
The court heard evidence that the property was sold to a New York shell company, Sun Orange Properties, owned by a friend of Maguire and that another, higher, offer for the property was not considered by the accountant.
A second person has also been charged in connection with the transaction, but they have pleaded not guilty and are not due to go on trial until 2024.
Taking Garda Marcus Regan through the evidence, prosecution counsel Aoife O’Leary said Maguire was head of finance and secretary of the hospice’s board at the time of the bequest.
He was responsible for the property but sold it without doing proper due diligence or obtaining board approval.
It was never put on the market and was sold after an offer of just €37,500 was emailed directly to Maguire by a person called Ronan Molloy.
The property was never valued by Maguire, but the court heard it was worth €240,000 at the time.
During the sale, the rights to the property were transferred to Sun Orange Properties.
Garda Regan agreed that this company was set up just a day before the transaction by a person who had been friends with Maguire for over 20 years.
The court heard that the sale went even though a Spanish solicitor said he had a buyer who would offer a much higher price.
The solicitor was so concerned about the transaction that he insisted on a disclaimer document being signed by Maguire and another “unsuspecting” member of the hospice board, Maguire had falsely assured the board member the property was dilapidated, the court heard.
The hospice’s then chief executive Mo Flynn was also told the property was dilapidated and Maguire never raised the transaction at any board meeting.
Concerns in relation to the sale only arose after an unrelated audit in 2015.
This resulted in Maguire being sacked for gross negligence and a complaint being made by the hospice to An Garda Síochána.
The hospice, which has facilities in Harold’s Cross and Blackrock in Dublin and Magheramore, Co Wicklow, subsequently sued Maguire and another person in the High Court.
Ms O’Leary told Judge Nolan the case was settled with no admission of liability after Maguire paid the hospice €256,000. The sum included €91,000 in pension entitlements which were surrendered.
Defense counsel Patrick Gageby handed several testimonials in to the judge.
He said these showed his client was deeply remorseful and ashamed.
Mr Gageby said Maguire accepted responsibility for his actions and had been suffering from nerves and anxiety since they were uncovered.
Jailing Maguire, Judge Nolan said he had committed “a devious crime”.
“Mr Maguire held a very high position. Therefore, everybody trusted him and were entitled to trust him,” the judge said.
He said it was “difficult to know” why Maguire acted as he did.
“The court must infer that it was a simple reason – greed,” Judge Nolan said.
“It seems to me greed was the motivating factor.”
Maguire’s behavior was “bad” and there was “a high level of culpability here,” the judge said.
He sentenced him to 27 months, backdated to when Maguire entered custody on October 17.