Clonmel Courthouse where the court hearing took place
An attempt to steal an elderly nun’s savings using a stolen forged cheque was foiled at Tipperary Town Credit Union when the 39-year-old thief went to withdraw a second sum of €2,000 from the account where she had lodged the cheque, Clonmel Circuit Court was told.
The criminal behaviour of Adrianna Williams of 702 Elm Green Close, Elm Park, Castletroy, Limerick was stopped when she went to Tipperary Credit Union for the second day in a row to withdraw €2,000 from her account on November 22, 2018.
Gardaí arrested her as she left the credit union and at Clonmel Circuit Court’s latest session the mother-of-two pleaded guilty to a series of offences.
Ms Williams pleaded guilty to theft of a blank cheque from Sr Frances Hurley on November 7, 2018 and dishonestly inducing her to write a €700 cheque by fabricating a cancer illness on the same date.
She pleaded guilty to making a false cheque for €14,000 with the intention of inducing a person to accept it as genuine and using a false instrument with intent to induce another into believing it was genuine.
Ms William also pleaded guilty to theft of €500 from Plassey Credit Union in Limerick; theft of €2,000 from Tipperary Credit Union and attempted theft of €2,000 from Tipperary Credit Union.
Sgt Cathal Godfrey of Tipperary Garda Station told the court that on November 7, 2018, Adrianna Williams called to the home of Sr Frances Hurley in Limerick city with the intention of inducing her to give her money to pay for treatment for a fabricated cancer illness. Sr Hurley gave her a €700 cheque.
The nun left the room to take a call and when Ms Williams was alone she took a single cheque from deep in the cheque book, leaving the stub.
Sgt Godfrey pointed out that Ms Williams had called to Sr Hurley on several previous occasions seeking money for other reasons such as food, clothing, money to fix up her house after it was burgled and money for rent of a new house.
He said these were all fabricated stories to get money from Sr Hurley. She received a total of €3,000 from Sr Hurley on dates prior to this incident.
Ms Williams made out the stolen cheque to herself for the sum of €14,000, signed it Frances Hurley and lodged it in her own account at Plassey Credit Union in Limerick the next day.
When she was asked at the Credit Union under Money Laundering legislation where she got the €14,000, she replied that it was a gift from her aunt.
Sgt Godfrey continued that on November 20, 2018, Ms Williams entered Plassey Credit Union and requested a withdrawal of €500 from her account and was given €500 cash.
The next day she got a bus to Tipperary Town and went to Tipperary Credit Union, which is the head office with Plassey CU - one of the smaller branch offices.
She asked a teller at Tipperary CU what the limit was to withdraw in one day and was told it was €2,000.
She withdrew €2,000 in cash. Later that day the Credit Union manager received a call from Bank of Ireland to say the €14,000 cheque had been stopped because there was only approximately €4,000 in the account when the cheque was written.
The bank had also confirmed with Sr Hurley that she did not write the cheque. The Tipperary CU manager reported the matter to Tipperary Garda Station.
Ms Williams returned to Tipperary Credit Union on November 22 and attempted to withdraw another €2,000.
When the teller went to carry out the transaction she found there was a stop put on the account and a note to contact the manager.
The teller made an excuse and approached the manager, who contacted Tipperary Garda Station.
Ms Williams was arrested as she left the Credit Union.
She had her credit union book with her, which contained two withdrawal slips for €500 and €2,000. She was brought to Tipperary Garda Station where she admitted stealing the cheque, forging it, lodging it at Plassey CU and making the two withdrawals. She admitted her intention had been to clean out the account.
Ms Williams also admitted inducing Sr Hurley to give her money on several occasions including the €700 cheque for a fabricated cancer illness.
She told gardaí she burned the €700 cheque as it was made payable in her partner’s name and she didn’t want him to know about it.
Sgt Godfrey outlined that Ms Williams had 113 previous convictions of which 71 were for theft offences.
He read Sr Hurley’s victim impact statement to the court in which the 87-year-old nun described how she had given Ms Williams food, clothing and money when she had called to her seeking help.
She had lost confidence in giving charity because of Ms Williams’ deception and now found it hard to trust people.
She had no doubt that genuine people in need have lost out because of this.
Defence barrister Suzanne Gorey BL said Ms Williams’ behaviour was appalling but thankfully Sr Hurley wasn’t affected from a financial point of view from the financial loss of the €2,500 her client withdrew at the Credit Union.
That loss was incurred by the Credit Union as it was withdrawn before the cheque was cleared.
The barrister pointed out that her client fully co-operated with the garda investigation and made full and frank admissions to the offences.
The barrister explained that her client was under severe pressure at the time she committed these offences.
She was addicted to Xanax and had a drugs debt hanging over her for eight months.
She had wanted the money to pay off this debt.
She was too afraid to name the individuals she owed this drug debt to and indicated to gardaí when they were interviewing her that her partner had known nothing about her offending or the debt.
While being interviewed by gardaí, her client apologised to Sr Frances Hurley and the Credit Union.
She said: “I am sorry, I am more than sorry for doing it. I was in so much debt.”
Her client described Sr Hurley as a “lovely woman” and said she hadn’t known she was a nun.
She had just gone around knocking on doors.
Ms Gorey added that her client wrote a letter of apology where she described how she was extremely sorry and felt so ashamed.
She knew her actions hurt Sr Hurley deeply. She had taken advantage of her and hoped she would forgive her.
The barrister outlined that Ms Williams was free of drugs since May last year.
She was addicted to prescription medication for some time prior to that.
She was involved in a car accident a long number of years ago and was prescribed medication for anxiety.
This is when her drug abuse problem started.
Her life also took a downward spiral following the death of a cousin. She took Xanax tablets to deal with the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that arose from the circumstances of that death.
She had a long history of mental health problems including self harm.
Ms Gorey pointed out that Ms Williams has been engaging with the Ana Liffey Drug Project and Merchants Quay Drugs Treatment service.
She was currently waiting to see a psychologist to deal further with her addiction issues and PTSD.
Ms Gorey appealed to the court to impose a suspended sentence on Ms Williams in view of her efforts to overcome her drug addiction.
“She is adamant that if given a chance, she won’t come before the court again now she is dealing with her addiction issues.
After hearing all the evidence, Judge Eoin Garavan described the offences committed by Ms Williams as “heinous” and “appalling” but he wanted more information before finalising the sentence.
He remanded Ms Williams in custody and adjourned the case to Clonmel Circuit Court on March 9 to set a date for the final sentencing and directed that medical and probation service reports be prepared on the defendant for the sentencing date and that she undergo a urine analysis test.