Ex-employee tells fraud trial of ‘day everything went horribly wrong’

The theft and fraud trial of Thomas Byrne has heard of the day “everything went horribly wrong” for the former solicitor when one of his employees reported him to the authorities.

Ex-employee tells fraud trial of ‘day everything went horribly wrong’

Barbara Cooney was an assistant solicitor in Mr Byrne’s Walkinstown firm when she allegedly discovered that Mr Byrne had forged her signature on a document related to a €4.5m loan from the Irish Nationwide Building Society.

Ms Cooney told the court that she felt threatened and scared while in the office after making the discovery. She said Mr Byrne and his business partner, John Kelly, both pleaded with her not to go to the Law Society about the forged signature, and that Mr Kelly told her that Mr Byrne was suicidal and an alcoholic.

Later that day, she went to the Law Society which moved in and shut down the accused’s practice early the following week.

Mr Byrne, aged 47, of Walkinstown Rd, Crumlin, is accused of theft and fraud offences totalling €51.8m. The charges allege he transferred clients’ homes into his name and then used them as collateral for property loans.

He has pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 51 counts of theft, forgery, using forged documents and deception between 2004 and 2007.

Ms Cooney told Damien Colgan, defending, that she knew that her employer had forged her signature on a previous occasion as part of a loan application to EBS.

Ms Conroy remained with Mr Byrne’s company until “the day it all went horribly wrong” on Oct 18, 2007. It was then that she received a call from Irish Nationwide Building Society referring to a solicitor’s undertaking she signed stating that she would register several properties which were being used by Mr Byrne as collateral. The society faxed the undertaking and she saw the signature on it was not hers, she said.

Ms Cooney said her secretary agreed to drive her to the Law Society because she was so upset and that Mr Byrne followed her out to the car while asking her not to go.

Detective Sergeant Paschal Walsh told Remy Farrell, prosecuting, that the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation acquired the files from the Law Society in mid-Nov 2007.

Det Sgt Walsh said he helped put together a detailed chart summarising the allegations against Mr Byrne. This chart was provided to jurors.

The trial continues.

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