Tipperary woman who set up website selling fashion accessories found guilty of fraud
A woman who set up a website selling fashion accessories has been found guilty under the Theft and Fraud Act by Nenagh District Court after she failed to deliver four purchases.
Linda Caplis, 45, of Traverstown, Dolla, a widow with six children, had pleaded not guilty to the offences on December 2, 2020.
The court heard she operated an online site called Munster Bling.
The court heard the total amount came to €476 and involved victims from Tipperary and Kerry.
Alison Darcy said that she contacted Munster Bling and bought a handbag for €50, plus €8 postage. However, when the handbag never arrived she contacted the site to inform them but discovered she was blocked.
“It was the first time ever to buy online and I’ve learned from my mistake,” she said.
She told solicitor Liz McKeever, for Ms Caplis, that when she didn’t get any reply, she became suspicious.
“I was kicking myself and thought: ‘What an eejit’. Then I saw a message online asking if anyone knew of the lady and purchased anything before,” she said.
Stephanie O’Shaughnessy said that she ordered a handbag for €50, plus €8 postage, and was asked to say it was a purchase by a friend to avoid Ms Caplis having to pay tax.
She agreed and sent on her address but when the bag didn’t arrive after a few days she contacted the site and was told it would be there “in a few days”.
She was later told it was in the depot and would be with her “before long”.
She had wanted the bag for Christmas and asked for a refund.
She discovered she was blocked from the site.
She never received the bag or her money back and sent Ms Caplis a message in January that said: “Pure scam.”
Ms McKeever said Ms Caplis would say the reason she was blocked was because Facebook had taken down her page.
Lisa Buckley told the court that she ordered a handbag and paid €60.
She never got the bag or a tracking number.
She tried to message Ms Caplis but never received the item or her money.
Joanna O’Sullivan told the court that she came across the Munster Bling site on Facebook in November 2020 and expressed an interest in buying items for her daughter for Christmas.
She sent on money and later messaged for news on delivery of the items.
She said she got a reply from Ms Caplis saying she would be in Killarney and would bring the goods to her.
However, she got another message saying the goods were sent by post through a courier.
Ms O’Sullivan said she had not received a tracking number and when she still got none she was told that the goods were “stuck in the depot” in Portlaoise.
She again asked for a tracking number but got no answer and all messaging was cut off from her.
She said she had put the message on Facebook asking did anyone know anything about Ms Caplis.
“I felt hurt. I felt she was similar to myself with the pressure of Christmas getting something for your children,” said Ms O’Sullivan.
“I put the message on Facebook because I felt I had been wronged,” she said.
Cross-examined by Ms McKeever, she said that she had ordered three handbags and a pair of pyjamas.
Ms McKeever said that her client’s business acumen would have been “zero”, and she wouldn’t have had a tracking number.
The solicitor said that Ms Caplis would say that she would have paid back all the money only her Facebook page and her accounts with Paypal and Revolut had been closed down.
Ms McKeever put it to Ms O’Sullivan that she had been blocked only after she had contacted her client’s children and they had been upset.
Garda Mark Costello told the court that he had received correspondence from Ms O’Sullivan that she had paid for items and never received them.
He invited Ms Caplis to Nenagh Garda station to make a statement in which she said that she had set up the website for Christmas and had sold around 30 items.
She told him she did have a tracking number but she couldn’t find one for Ms O’Sullivan at the time.
Garda Costello said Ms Caplis agreed that she had received €300 from Ms O’Sullivan and said she had posted the items through An Post.
However, the tracking book was never produced to him, said Garda Costello.
In her evidence, Ms Caplis said that she was a widow with six children. She worked as a health care assistant but was not working in 2020 during Covid.
She had been receiving a widow’s pension and all her children had returned home.
Ms Caplis said she had bought items from a website for €2,270 and they had been shipped to her from Turkey.
She said that she would write the names and addresses into a book and go to the post office to post the items. She understood that the post office receipt was a tracking number. She had not used registered post.
The book with the names and addresses was at home but she had been unable to locate it.
The bags had cost her €25 and she could make €25 or €30 on each sale.
She had sold around 30 bags but everything went when her Facebook page was taken down and she was now left with “an awful lot” at home.
“I made no profit on it. I lost money,” said Ms Caplis.
Her Paypal account had also been shut down.
he accepted none of the four women had received their parcels.
Ms Caplis said she had told Garda Costello she would refund the money and that she never intended to defraud anybody.
“I accept they are out of pocket. It just went out of hand,” she said.
Under cross-examination by Insp Amanda Reynolds, Ms Caplis said that she had searched for the order tracking book but couldn’t find it.
She had put most items in a padded envelope but Ms O’Sullivan’s had been in a box and she had tried to locate the items at the depot in Portlaoise.
She hadn’t been able to refund the four victims because she lost the addresses when her Paypal account was shut down.
Ms McKeever submitted that there had been no intention to deceive anyone and that it had not been put to Ms Caplis that she had intended to defraud anyone.
“She accepts that they paid this money but she had no idea how to run a website,” said Ms McKeever. “She was trying to earn some money very foolishly, I would say.”
Ms McKeever said that Ms Caplis felt she had done nothing wrong as she had posted the items.
“She put her head in the sand over this. However, she didn’t try to hide her identity and didn’t set up a false website,” said the solicitor.
“She foolishly got into it and didn’t intend to defraud people,” she said.
However, Insp Reynolds said that the reality was that she had not returned the money and once she got into difficulty she had blocked everybody.
Judge Elizabeth MacGrath convicted Ms Caplis, saying the defendant had set up a website, had advertised on it, money had been paid over but goods had not arrived.
Ms Caplis had failed to keep a record of posting.
She was satisfied intent had been proven because Ms Caplis had referenced the depot and had said she would get a tracking number.
Judge MacGrath was told that full compensation was in court for the victims.
She adjourned the case to November 24 for a pre-sentencing probation report and to determine witness expenses.
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