A man who claimed to be from the IRA and demanded €50,000 in cash from a woman at a drop-off point has been jailed for 18 months.
Kevin McCauley demanded the cash from Angela McDaid after he heard she had benefitted from the sale of land.
The 37-year-old left Ms McDaid terrified but she bravely went to Gardai who tracked down McCauley by identifying the stamp on the demand letter.
McCauley admitted demanding money with menaces and Judge John Aylmer sentenced him to a total of 18 months at Letterkenny Circuit Court in Co Donegal.
McCauley had heard how distant relative Angela McDaid had come into some cash and made the demand for the €50,000 in cash be dropped off in a yellow bag at Doneyloop in Castlefin.
Garda Sinead McLaughlin of Castlefin Garda station told how investigators managed to identify a number on the stamp which led them to Lifford post office and could identify the stamp was sold on October 31st, 2018.
Upon viewing CCTV footage they identified a lone male buying the stamp.
They then cross-referenced that footage with CCTV footage from Lifford Garda station which showed the man parking a small dark-coloured jeep.
Gardai then began an undercover surveillance operation at the scene where the letter of demand instructed for the €50,000 to be dropped off.
At 5.30am Gardai observed a white Audi A6 which they pursued after getting its license plate number.
During the pursuit the yellow bag was thrown from the car.
McCauley, from Drumdoit, Castlefin, was arrested on January 31st, 2019
He claimed to Gardai he was a professional online gambler who had a lot of loans and mortgages.
He said the only time he visited Lifford was to get diesel and tyres for his car.
He said he knew Ms McDaid but he had no connection to her and said that although he was on the CCTV footage, he could not remember buying a stamp.
He denied having any connection to any paramilitary organisation and was in Doneyloop on the night and had picked up the yellow bag but thought it was a hi-viz jacket thrown away by a friend of his out jogging.
Victim Angela McDaid told the court how the blood drained from her face, her legs turned to jelly and her stomach churned when she opened the letter at her home.
She said she was most scared by the thought of what would happen to her if she didn’t comply with the demands.
Ms McDaid said her fear turned to anger at the thought that McCauley felt it was acceptable to send such a letter.
She said “He hid like a coward behind the IRA because he knew that would instil fear. How would Kevin McCauley feel if someone sent his mother such a letter?”
Barrister for McCauley, Mr Shane Costello, SC, said that his client had bizzarely wrongly got it into his head that his family was entitled to some of the money from the land which Ms McDaid had benefited from.
He said his client, who had no previous convictions of any kind, now accepts that was wrong.
McCauley, he added, felt ashamed and disgraced by what he had done and that his family had been forced to withdraw from society and were deeply embarrassed by this “cowardly crime.”
He added that he wanted to apologise to Ms McDaid and her family for the hurt he had caused.
He had offered Ms McDaid compensation but she turned it down.
Passing sentence, Judge Aylmer said he noted the maximum sentence for such an offence was 14 years in prison and he placed this incident in the mid-range of such offences and that it merited 4 years in jail.
However, he noted he spared the victim a trial by pleading guilty and said he was conscious of the shame his actions had brought on his family.
He enjoyed a good work record, had no previous convictions and had not come to Garda attention since this incident.
Because of these factors he was reducing the sentence to one of three years and said he had to decide if part or all of this could be suspended.
However, he added that because of the serious nature of the incident there must be a custodial sentence and so he suspended the final 18 months of the three year sentence leaving McCauley 18 months to serve in prison.