Gardaí freeze bank account in holiday scam

GARDAÍ have obtained a court order freezing a bank account into which would-be holidaymakers paid upfront for the use of a luxury apartment not owned by the man purporting to offer it for rent.

The order was granted at Monaghan District Court yesterday after Gardaí launched an investigation following complaints that a man passing himself off as Michael Haden, quantity surveyor, was not, as he had claimed, the owner of an apartment in the five-star Malibu Beach complex in Puerto Banus, Spain.

Mr Haden had advertised the exclusive property for rent at the knock-down price of €500 per week in a complex where typical rental costs are €3,000 a week. Those who fell victim to his elaborate scam were given bank account details by Mr Haden to lodge payment for the apartment upfront in exchange for which he promised to send them the keys. When the keys failed to arrive, victims realised they had been duped.

A Garda spokesman said: “I can confirm there was an order granted to Gardaí at Monaghan District Court to freeze a bank account.”

Mr Haden told clients he was a quantity surveyor and directed them to his company website to verify his claims.

Last week, the Irish Examiner revealed Mr Haden had paid a web design company to create the bogus web pages this month, in which he listed employees of an actual firm of quantity surveyors – Richard Walsh Associates in Tralee – as members of his staff. He also poached projects from another firm of quantity surveyors, Keenan Quantity Surveyors, and listed them on his website as his own. The website was suspended last Friday.

The Society of Chartered Surveyors, of which Mr Haden claimed to be a member, is also looking into the case.

A spokesperson for AIB bank said they are assisting in the Garda investigation. The account into which hopeful holidaymakers paid funds is in Cavan. That account is now frozen but it is not known whether money was removed from the account before the scam came to light or what funds, if any, remain in it.

To date, at least seven people have spoken publicly about being duped, or almost duped by Mr Haden, including one woman who said he threatened her verbally when she challenged him. John Stephenson, the Spanish-based estate agent who rents and sells apartments at the Malibu Beach complex, claims he was also threatened by Mr Haden.

Mr Haden included his mobile phone number in the advertisements for the apartmentin Puerto Banus. The same number accompanied an ad in RTÉ classifieds for an apartment in Puerto Rico in the Canaries, at a cost of €250 per week.


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