Karen Lee is one of many who are owed money from ESP director Michael O?Neill.
Karen Lee is one of many who are owed money from ESP director Michael O?Neill.

Teary con job on single mum


WHEN a teary-eyed Michael O'Neill pleaded for a loan from cash-strapped single mother of two Karen Lee, she went against her better judgment and gave him the money.

She now knows it was a bad mistake.

Six years on, Mr O'Neill, director of Elite Sports Program (ESP), still owes Ms Lee more than $4300 (see story below left).

Ms Lee, who had a six-month relationship with Mr O'Neill in 1998, used inheritance money from her father to help out Mr O'Neill.

The money had been set aside for her children's education, a fact made clear to Mr O'Neill at the time of the loan.

"I lent Michael $3500 to stop his car from being repossessed and to cover cheques," Ms Lee said.

"He was supposed to pay me back with the money he received from a property settlement, but in the meantime he reconciled with his wife and signed his half of the money over to her."

Ms Lee is one of those people who doesn't like to see others suffer.

If someone needs a hand, she will do what she can to help.

"I am just a softie," she said.

"I received the inheritance when we were together and then, not long after (the relationship ended), he came around crying and begging for money, saying that no one else would help him and I was his last resort.

"If I have something to give and somebody needs it I will give it to them, I just leant it to the wrong person. But I have learnt my lesson."

Ms Lee said she was wary of Mr O'Neill's request and therefore ordered him to have a solicitor draft a letter acknowledging his debt to her.

When he was not forthcoming with any repayments, Ms Lee was left with no option but to take him to court.

Mr O'Neill was ordered to pay Ms Lee $5156.30 ? the $3500 she lent him and $1656.30 to cover her legal costs and interest.

Ms Lee received $850 from Mr O'Neill over a series of eight instalments, but in late 2000 the payments stopped.

"He kept saying 'next week, next week', he was full of promises," she said.

The last she heard from Mr O'Neill was in 2003.

Ms Lee said she doesn't want the $5156.30 back, she just wants the $3500 she originally lent Mr O'Neill.

But what chance does she think she has of getting that back?

"Zippo," she said.

"He came over one night and we were having a blue and I said I just wanted my money back.

"He said that I was not getting it back and that I had given him and his wife a good start.

"It's the whole principle that hurts the most... it was just so heartless."

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