Son says theft from vulnerable mum was ‘a grotesque betrayal of trust’

Family’s anger after learning their mother was victim of fraudster through newspaper reports

The angry son of a vulnerable resident in a care facility in Julianstown who was defrauded by a trusted HSE worker who stole money from her bank account to pay his Sky and Netflix bills has spoken of how the ordeal has made his family lose faith in the system.

Edwin Gall (51) from Grangerath Drogheda, Co, Meath pleaded guilty at Trim Circuit Court to stealing a total of €22,144 from nine residents of Barden Lodge in Julianstown on dates between March 2016 and February 2017.

The facility, operated by St. Joseph's Mental Health and Intellectual Disability Services in Portrane caters for 11-13 adult residents with intellectual disabilities providing 24 hour care.

Gall, a trusted staff member assisted residents withdrawing money from cash machines.

The court heard the defendant had used the accounts to pay his Sky and Netflix subscriptions.

Gerard Smith (30) from Ballymun says he only learned that his mother Patricia Smith (64) who has schizophrenia and is a long term resident in Barden Lodge was one of the victims in what he describes as a “HSE cover up” when he read a newspaper article in 2017 outlining how the HSE had notified Gardaí of irregularities in service user accounts.

His family had not been contacted by the HSE on the matter.

Gerard was only thirteen when his mother entered St Ita's Hospital, a mental health facility in Portrane later moving to Julianstown and says it has had a devastating effect on him and his five siblings.

The family had put their trust in the HSE to look after their mother 17 years ago but now felt betrayed and will never have the same trust in the system, says Gerard.

“You leave someone so vulnerable in the capable hands of professionals who are meant to care and instead this happens, it’s disgusting.

“My mam has been betrayed by a system who was meant to protect her. She told me that she knew this was happening but she was too afraid to tell the staff.

“There needs to be protocols put in place so this can’t happen again. It is not about the money; it is the abuse of trust.

“Money will never replace what was taken from our family."

Gerard admits being “outraged” that his family was not informed that his mother was a victim. He said:

“The worst thing is that I only found out by reading a newspaper article about it in work, only for that I would never have known.

“I had to investigate myself and ring social workers and only after doing my own investigative work did the HSE finally admitted to us that she was a victim.”

The scaffolding company owner has also hit out at the HSE for not having an adequate care plan in place for his mother who has been a patient in the service for seventeen years. He added:

“The system has failed us. It tore our family apart when my mam went to Portrane.

“We were promised that she’d come home seventeen years ago and she never did.

“Myself and my twin brother and another brother who is one year older were left in the flat by ourselves and our younger sister was taken into foster care.

“We lost one person but my mam lost her six children.

“She has become institutionalised and her health has deteriorated, I just want a better quality of life for her now.

“I don’t want another family to go through what we went through.

“I want to make sure that these people are treated as equal citizens of Ireland and not just numbers to the HSE.”

Gerard says a care plan has now been put in place and the family hope to have their mother closer to home in the near future. He added:

“Mam got to view a few different nursing homes and they said when Covid is over they are going to move her to one in Ballymun.

“We are happy with that because she will be close to us and get to see her eleven grandchildren not 40km away.”

The court heard that the HSE had refunded the residents for their losses.

When contacted the HSE said they would not be commenting at this stage but encouraged any relative with a query relating to the care of a resident to contact them directly.

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