A former radio DJ who had €15,000 lodged into her bank account as part of a money-laundering scam has had her sentencing hearing adjourned after suffering an injury.
Nikki Hayes, 44, real name Eimear Black O’Keeffe, of The Way, Hunter’s Run, Clonee, Dublin 15, pleaded guilty to possessing €10,000 as the proceeds of crime in a Permanent TSB bank account within the State on 5 November, 2020.
Two further counts of possessing €2,600 and €2,400 as the proceeds of crime in her account on 6 November, 2020, were taken into consideration by Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.
Judge Martina Baxter was informed that O’Keeffe suffered a fall on Wednesday and attended St James’s Hospital in Dublin. She was later discharged with a reference to concussion.
Gardaí confirmed that this information was correct, and Kieran Kelly BL prosecuting, had no objections to adjourning the matter for a week.
Judge Baxter adjourned the matter for finalisation until 10 November and remanded Ms O’Keeffe on continuing bail.
At a hearing last week, Garda Neill Gavin agreed with counsel for the defence that Ms O’Keeffe was “genuinely vulnerable’ and struggling with her mental health at the time.
Keith Spencer BL, defending, said Ms O’Keeffe was belatedly diagnosed with bipolar and borderline personality disorder and had been “preyed upon” by others operating a sophisticated money-laundering scam.
Ms O’Keeffe’s marriage had broken down, and she had reached “rock bottom”, counsel added.
Mr Kelly said the offence came to light after the injured party in the case got a text message on his phone on the day purporting to be from Permanent TSB.
The message said the man had “paired with a new device” and should click on the enclosed link, so he followed these prompts and was brought to his PTSB bank account.
Three sums of €2,600, €2,400 and €10,000, totaling €15,000, were then withdrawn from the man’s account and went into Ms O’Keeffe’s account, the court heard.
Over the next 24 hours, withdrawals of the money were made from Revolut and through a number of ATM transactions in Liffey Valley.
Gda Gavin said a blonde lady was observed making the ATM transactions in Liffey Valley but that he was not in a position to say if it had been Ms O’Keeffe.
The court heard that the remainder of the money was blocked and returned to the injured party, leaving the bank at an outstanding loss of around €2,000.
Ms O’Keeffe was arrested and interviewed the following March and cooperated fully with gardaí, the court heard.
She told gardaí she had fallen on hard times and that someone had made contact with her and told her there might be a way of making about €2,000 if she allowed her bank account to be used.
Gda Gavin said when Ms O’Keeffe saw the money coming into her account, she became alarmed, but that the person who had got her involved pressurised her to continue with the transactions.
She has six previous convictions for minor road traffic offences dating back to 2005.
Mr Spencer said Ms O’Keeffe was in debt to the tune of €53,000 at the time of the offence, owing money to RTÉ and to various institutions in personal loans.
She sold her car and used some of the proceeds to pay off her car loan and also to bring her daughter to Disneyland, the court heard.
Counsel said Ms O’Keeffe had struggled with her mental health for many years, had been misdiagnosed and had not been compliant with her medication at the time of the offence.
She agreed with gardaí in an interview that she had been reckless in providing her card details to an erstwhile friend who had told her there was an easy way of making money.
Ms O’Keeffe met a person in Blanchardstown, handed over her details and bank card and was told they would be returned at the end of the day, but she did not get her card back.
She told gardaí that when she saw irregularities in her account, she told her contact that she was going to the guards, but that the other person then threatened to burn down her house.
Ms O’Keeffe told gardaí she was not the person who had withdrawn the sums of money from ATMs in Liffey Valley.
Counsel said Ms O’Keeffe had built up a very successful radio career over 24 or 27 years, starting at the age of 15, under the pseudonym of Nikki Hayes.
She had worked at RTÉ for eight years and also for Spin 103, Classic Hits and East Coast FM, but is no longer employed in radio as a direct consequence of this case, counsel said.
“She had a very successful career in radio… and someone who builds themselves up that high often has further to fall,” counsel added.
A probation report had placed Ms O’Keeffe at high risk of reoffending, but Gda Gavin agreed with defence counsel that she was unlikely to re-offend as her mental health has since stabilised.
The court heard that Ms O’Keeffe did not benefit materially in any way from the offence.
Counsel said Ms O’Keeffe’s life had been punctuated by mental health struggles, including anorexia, addiction issues and post-partum depression, but that she has completely overcome these issues and is now compliant with her medication and is off alcohol.
Her ex-husband has custody of their daughter, and Ms O’Keeffe sees the child twice a week, the court heard.
Ms O’Keeffe is currently doing an accountancy course and has written a book called “Crying into the Saucepan” about her struggles with mental health, the court heard. Counsel said she has been very public about her desire to assist others who struggle with mental health.
Mr Spencer said his client pleaded guilty at first opportunity and is committed to repaying the outstanding €2,000 to the bank when her financial situation improves.
Judge Baxter previously adjourned the case for finalisation in order for the defence counsel to provide more paperwork on Ms O’Keeffe’s alcohol status and information regarding when she stopped working on the radio.