An Irish hustler is targeting Mayo men and women living in the US with an alleged scam preying on their county loyalty, warns the Mayo Association of Chicago and Irish officials.
Bridget "Breege" Looney, longtime owner of the Abbey Pub in Chicago's Irving Park neighborhood, left Ireland when she was 19. Looney says she received a call from a "fast-talking voice" with a "thick Irish brogue" saying the county's Gaelic football team needed her support.
"If he'd knocked on my door, I'm sure I'd have given him a check right then," Looney told the Chicago Tribune. "But then he wanted my credit card number.
"I wouldn't give my credit card number to St. Peter over the phone," she said. "And now I'm glad I didn't."
Mayo officials, who say they do not do any direct solicitation, say the scam is a sales pitch to advertise on an Irish sports website, implying that proceeds will benefit the Mayo football club but the club receives nothing.
"There's probably 50 ads on this site from businesses in Chicago, Boston, New York," Billy Heneghan, president of the Mayo Association of Chicago, said. "Construction (businesses), what have you. Those ads won't do 'em any good. I called one (business) I saw on there and said 'So you got stuck.'"
Later this month, Mayo, who haven't won the all-Ireland trophy in 62 years, will meet Dublin as the favorite to win the Sam Maguire trophy and break the team's curse. It is said that after the returning champions of '51 encountered a funeral procession on the road back to Castlebar they were cursed by a priest, who said no member of the team would live to see Mayo win another title.
Spokesman Aidan McLaughlin said the the Mayo Gaelic Athletic Association could use the money, for sure, but they aren't cold-calling anyone.
He said that County Mayo officials learned of the phone calls last month and have threatened litigation against those responsible.
"We know there are many people from Mayo who are not able to travel home because of the expenses, or their legal status, and their only way to help the team is to contribute financially," McLaughlin said. "And so I think (Mayo fans overseas) may be even more vulnerable."
He said it stings that scammers are preying on Mayo fans.
"It's been a wonderful thing for the whole county," McLaughlin said, of the upcoming game to be held in Croke Park.
"People here are going to go mental if we win, and I'm sure in Chicago too."