Two men involved in a fraud in which front companies and false identities were used to scam almost €1m from leading businesses have been given suspended sentences at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.
Darren Cahill (aged 35) and Stephen Doyle (aged 36) were involved with others in the elaborate fraud which continued over eight months and whose victims included multinationals and one Irish businessman who had to close his company as a result of being duped of €423,000.
Cahill of Howth Road, Clontarf and Doyle of Main Street, Beaupark, Clongriffin each pleaded guilty to ten counts of dishonestly obtaining goods and other related offences on dates in 2002 which amounted to €800,000 in losses for the companies.
Judge Tony Hunt sentenced them each to four years, suspended in full for four years, and ordered them to pay €5000 in compensation in addition to the money they have already produced.
Judge Hunt called it a "cruel and heartless" enterprise which would ordinarily warrant a jail term but took into account their attempts made to offer compensation and their clean criminal record.
He said they were both "gullible foot soldiers" in the scam and they "derived no real benefit or trappings of wealth" from it.
He also gave the men "full credit" for their early guilty plea as a trial would have been lengthy and complicated with at least 102 witnesses having to be called.
Inspector Declan Daly told prosecuting counsel, Mr Dominic McGinn BL, that both men used fake names and driving licences as part of the operation.
Cahill used the name "Darren Bradley" and Doyle used both "Richard Wright" and "Stephen Dunne". Business cards with fake personal and company names were also printed for them.
Insp. Daly said that various business names used in the massive deception were registered at the Companies Registration Office "by people with fake names" . These names included Enviro Products, Lambra, Stormway, Priority Executive Services and Bradley Roche.
Insp. Daly said a number of legitimate companies were approached to do business with the fake firms. Fake referees and a credit history were used to secure new business with the references being given over the phone by the fraudsters themselves.
He said they claimed to represent one company that had ceased trading a decade earlier and another whose directors had emigrated in 1979.
Insp. Daly said five companies agreed to supply goods to the fraudsters. Payment for the goods was to be made by direct debit, and mandates were supplied from bank accounts also set up in false names. The direct debits were cancelled after deliveries were made and the goods were sold on.
Big multinationals were defrauded, including Robert Roberts, which lost €161,387.82; Coca Cola,
€53,744.18; Lever Faberge, €78,981; and Johnson Brothers, €18,592.51.
Insp. Daly told Mr McGinn that the biggest sufferer was Inter Euro Services and GW Continental, two small companies both directed by the same man, Mr William Gaff, whose losses at €423,186 were so great that Inter Euro Services had to cease trading.
Insp. Daly said that landlords of various premises leased by the fake companies were also defrauded.
A warehouse on Russell Street in Dublin was abandoned with €6,000 in arrears. The culprits had moved to a warehouse near the Point Depot, where they left with €12,000 in unpaid rent, their cheques having bounced. An office elsewhere in the capital was packed up at 6.30am on Halloween morning 2002, after €2,000 in arrears had been accrued.
He said the Russell Street landlord became suspicious when he noticed the warehouse wasn’t being used and that goods were simply being unloaded off trucks and loaded straight onto vehicles with English registrations.
Insp. Daly said that company cars were also obtained illegally. Stormway acquired a black 3 Series BMW on hire purchase from Murphy and Gunne Ltd at a cost of €36,000. A fake licence and utility bill in a fake name were used to secure the finance through Bank of Scotland.
A red BMW 5 Series was got in the same way, at a cost of €30,500. The creditor, this time, was GE Capital Woodchester Ltd. This car wasn’t a complete loss, however, as it was later found abandoned in Donegal and returned to GE.
Insp. Daly said Stormway was also used to get four laptops from Compustore on hire purchase, through Bank of Scotland, at a cost of €8,068.
He said it took specialist gardaí in the National Bureau of Fraud Investigation "months to piece together the puzzle".
Insp. Daly said that finally the homes of both Cahill and Doyle were searched in June 2003. At the time, Cahill gave his name as ‘John Smith’, but soon "came clean." Doyle wasn’t home, but incriminating documents were found in his house.
Cahill told gardaí he had been persuaded by "an old friend" to invest €4,000 in setting up a supply business.
He said he wasn’t paid much at the start, but got bonuses of thousands every now and again.
"In the end, he lost his €4,000," Insp Daly said.
Doyle said he didn’t know to begin with that "the company wasn’t legitimate" and he’d used a false identification only to fit in. He told gardaí his role was just loading and unloading goods, although he did sign some Stormway cheques to himself as back-pay.
Insp. Daly agreed with Mr Michael O’Higgins SC, defending Cahill, who described his client as a "foot soldier" in the operation and "very gullible" that he was on the "bottom rung of the ladder."
Mr Conor Devally SC, defending Doyle, suggested that his client "didn’t gain out of the massive fraud and was horrified to find out so many people were stung."
Insp. Daly agreed with counsel and said: "His frankness has gone a long way to helping us solve these crimes. He wasn’t at the top table in this venture. He was led."
Insp. Daly also agreed with Mr Devally that he didn’t think Doyle posed a risk of re-offending. "During his interview, he broke down a number of times," he said. "He was very remorseful."
Insp. Daly said both men were surprised that the company made such a loss, despite being told they would be selling the goods for 20% less than the wholesale price. They were also surprised that real companies had suffered such losses as a result of the fraud.
Mr O’Higgins said Cahill had brought €5,000 to court for Mr Gaff and committed to bringing another €5,000 in the next few weeks.
Mr Devalley said Doyle, who now works as a teacher, and his wife had put together €20,000 for Mr Gaff.