Trinity hardship fund defrauded of over €460,000 in “sophisticated scheme” 

Man convicted for defrauding Trinity hardship fund of over €460,000.

The Trinity College hardship fund was defrauded of over €460,000 in what has been coined as a “sophisticated scheme” which involved over 20 separate transactions.

The defendant, Jonathan McMahon was arrested via appointment in Pearse Street and sentenced on Wednesday in the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

The court was told by the Investigating Garda that the defendant had not personally applied to the hardship fund nor had any connection to College.

McMahon pleaded guilty to “possessing property that is the proceeds of criminal conduct” under the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering & Terrorist Financing) Act 2010.

On Thursday the court was told that the Garda investigation into the scheme is ongoing, however so far the fund is estimated to have been defrauded of approximately €461,275.

€7,100 of this was transferred into McMahon’s AIB and Revolut accounts over four separate transitions between October 2020 and February 2021.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court was informed by the Investigating Garda that the money transferred into McMahon’s Revolut account was promptly transferred to a third party account.

The money transferred to his AIB account was withdrawn directly. Gardaí believe these sums were handed directly to individuals.

The Investigating Garda also said it is unclear if McMahon was acting as a money mule and added there is no evidence to suggest he was under duress.

The defence counsel said that her client has a mild intellectual disability and is easily led by others adding that McMahon was engaging in heavy drinking and involved with a negative peer group at the time of the offence.

McMahon brought compensation to court totaling the sum of €1,500. He also presented the court with a letter of apology.

The defence counsel asked the court to leave her client without a conviction and rather give him the Probation Act.

The defence’s petition was denied by Judge Pauline Codd saying that the imposition of the Probation Act would be “inappropriate” given the volume of transactions which occurred in a four month period.

Judge Codd described the money transferred via McMahon’s as a “sophisticated scheme”.

She went on to say there was an “air of mystery” regarding where the money transferred by McMahon went, calling him “small cog” in an “overall scheme of deception and fraud”.

McMahon has no previous convictions and is currently doing an apprenticeship.

A one year prison sentence was imposed by Judge Codd which she suspended in full on strict conditions.

She continued saying there was “significant mitigation” in this case which included McMahon pleading guilty and expression of remorse.

Judge Codd informed him to hand over the €1,500 produced in court to the Investigating Garda in order for it to be transferred onto the fund.

She also instructed him to pay an additional €2,000 to the hardship fund over the next 12 months with a minimum of €200 to be paid over the first nine months.

In a statement to Trinity News a spokesperson for College said: “Trinity College Dublin became aware in the latter part of 2021 of the suspected misappropriation of monies from its College Hardship Fund.”

“This fund provides financial support to students who are experiencing short or long-term financial difficulties while attending Trinity”.

It went on to say: “Trinity promptly notified the relevant authorities including An Garda Síochána”.

“Trinity has continued to work with An Garda Síochána over the intervening period as it progresses its criminal investigations.”

“An Garda Síochána’s criminal investigations have resulted in matters being referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions.”

“Trinity understands that prosecutions have been brought by the DPP and cases are and have been before the Courts, the statement continued.

The statement noted that “there has been no misappropriation of State or donor funds provided to Trinity and students continue to have access to the fund as required”.

“Trinity anticipates being in a position to substantially recoup these monies”, it concluded.

Aoibhinn Clancy

Aoibhínn Clancy is the Deputy News Editor of Trinity News and is currently in her Junior Sophister Year studying History and Political Science.