Sgt Mary Skehan of the Garda fraud squad told Cork Circuit Criminal Court: “Patsy Walsh was the main orchestrator of this elaborate and complex deception.”
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said that dealing with the other seven people before the court yesterday was — in the absence of Patrick (Patsy) Walsh, aged 66, of Tinahealy, Co Wicklow — “like Hamlet without the prince”.
Five people received suspended 18-month sentences, and a sixth will get a suspended sentence of 18 months if found suitable for an order of 240 hours’ community service. A seventh man who was more heavily involved and benefited to the tune of approximately €100,000 will be sentenced in June 2015.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said: “They were knowingly involved in a deliberate attempt to obtain money by false pretences in a complicated, well-developed scheme.
“Creating false identification and a false trail, this was not a casual one-off, it was very deliberate. They knew it was complicated and they knew it was dishonest even though they did not substantially gain.”
Sgt Skehan said gardaí were satisfied that professional people such as solicitors, brokers, and auctioneers had no criminal involvement in any of the fraudulent activities.
Patsy Walsh was listed for sentencing yesterday but failed to appear, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Sgt Skehan said he was the main orchestrator of this fraud, which caught Bank of Ireland for just shy of €1m.
Walsh is from Wicklow and involved in the construction business in the UK and Ireland. He got into financial difficulties between February 2009 and September 2011, and operated under a number of aliases. He created false identities for several individuals who posed as legitimate purchasers of houses, all but one of which were owned by Walsh. False driving licences, P60s, and payslips were created to facilitate the fraud.
Once mortgages were secured, the individuals with false IDs handed over the mortgage cheques from Bank of Ireland to Walsh. Mortgages ranged from €126,000 to €207,000.
Five people benefited by being paid a few hundred euro up to €1,000 for the parts they played.
Those five all pleaded guilty to a single fraudulent deception charge and each got an 18-month suspended sentence. They were: Kay Russell, aged 67, of 22 Inniscarra Rd, Cork; Patrick Crowley, aged 29, of 3 Churchview, Churchtown, Mallow; Shane Slattery, aged 37, of 60A Great William O’Brien St; Wendy Briant, aged 54, of 1 Greenane, Kanturk ; and Elaine Marshall, aged 29, of 18 Inniscarra Rd, Fairhill, Cork.
A sixth man, Michael Jewitt, aged 34, of 14 Oliver Plunkett St, Doneraile, Co Cork, benefited to the tune of €5,000 and had a number of theft-related convictions from when he was younger. Jewitt will be given a suspended 18-month sentence also but only on condition that he is found suitable by the probation service to do 240 hours of community service.
Sentencing of a seventh person, Patrick O’Connor, aged 43, of 47 Annabella Park, Mallow, was adjourned until June 10, on two counts of deception.