A man claimed he was from the IRA in a letter he wrote to a woman demanding €50,000 after hearing she had benefited from a land sale, Letterkenny Circuit Court has heard.
Kevin McCauley (37) pleaded guilty to demanding money with menaces after being charged with writing to distant relative Angela McDaid ordering that the cash be dropped off in a yellow bag at Doneyloop, Castlefin, Co Donegal.
Ms McDaid reported the matter to gardaí who managed to identify McCauley through the stamp on the letter. It was puurchased by a lone male at Lifford post office on October 31st, 2018.
Video footage of the man buying the stamp was cross-referenced with CCTV footage from Lifford Garda station, which showed the man parking a small dark-coloured SUV.
Gardaí then began an undercover surveillance operation at the scene where the letter sent to Ms McDaid demanded that the €50,000 be dropped off. At 5.30am gardaí saw a white Audi A6, which they pursued. During the pursuit, the yellow bag was thrown from the car.
McCauley, from Drumdoit, Castlefin, was arrested on January 31st, 2019. He claimed that he was a professional gambler who had a lot of loans.
He said he knew Ms McDaid but had no connection to her and that while he apeared in the CCTV footage, he could not remember buying the stamp.
He denied being connected to any paramilitary organisation and claimed he thought the yellow bag was a hi-visibility jacket thrown away by a friend of his while out jogging.
Ms McDaid told the court the blood drained from her face and her legs turned to jelly when she saw the contents of the letter. She said she was scared by the thought of what could happen if she did not comply.
“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?”
Shane Costelloe SC, for McCauley, said his client had wrongly gotten it into his head that his family was entitled to some of the money from the land which Ms McDaid had benefited from.
McCauley now knows that was wrong, he said, and feels disgraced by what he did. He said members of the McCauley family were deeply embarrassed by his “cowardly crime.”
Judge John Aylmer adjourned sentencing until Tuesday.