Wigs, disguises, costumes, forged drivers licences and passports were all put into play by two former solicitors in a targeted campaign to defraud banks and credit unions of almost €400,000.
The sentencing judge had particular criticism for one of the banks defrauded by the couple, namely AIB.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin heard all the facts of the case involving Keith O’Flynn, 46, and Lyndsey Clarke, 37, with an address at Blarney Street, Cork, and put sentencing back until Friday at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.
Almost €100,000 cash was recovered in the garda investigation as the judge queried why anything at all should be given back to AIB, in particular, rather than giving their apportionment of compensation to charity.
“AIB never missed it. We might give the AIB money to charity. They didn’t know what they gave out, they didn’t miss it. If they want it back, they should come to court (on Friday). At some stage AIB are going to have to stop losing money.
“We are used to financial institutions making honest efforts to bankrupt themselves. AIB did so on three separate occasions. It is not something we should be surprised at… We the people of Ireland have no reason to believe the AIB will ever cop themselves on because we will bail them out. History speaks for itself,” Judge Ó Donnabháin said.
Detective Garda Alan McCarthy testified that both defendants were practising solicitors but were suspended in December 2016 for unrelated matters and Keith O’Flynn was declared bankrupt the following year.
It was after that that the couple set up 60 false identities or aliases by creating false documents. Initially, they purchased forged driving licences from an online site called Flawless Fake IDs. They also secured utility bills in false IDs.
“They created eight different PPS numbers. They asked rough sleepers for their PPS numbers,” Det. Garda McCarthy said. The detective said the quality of the forged documents they used was very high.
Prosecution senior counsel Siobhán Lankford said: “This couple were operating an identity factory.”
Using all of these false documents they opened 80 bank accounts for people who did not exist. Then they would apply for loans. For a short time they would make repayments but then stop paying. They got loans totalling €469,000, causing a loss to the institutions of over €390,000.
Some of it was done online and by phone, and when they needed to go into banks or to ATMs they wore wigs and disguises.
They caused losses as follows: €49,000 for Bank of Ireland, €154,000 for AIB, €31,000 for Ulster Bank and €156,000 for various credit unions. False accounts were also set up by the couple with PTSB, KBC and An Post but those institutions did not give them loans. Most of the frauds were carried out in Cork and Dublin cities.
Det. Garda McCarthy credited the cracking of the case to Alan Boland of Bank of Ireland group financial crime unit who began to see a pattern in a number of the accounts and listened back to voice recordings and checked computer data. “Without this work the other financial institutions would not have been aware they were victims of this crime,” Det. Garda McCarthy said.
Alice Fawsett senior counsel and Seamus Roche SC for Clarke and O’Flynn respectively appealed for some leniency. Each defendant has children from a previous marriage and are now married to each other and have a baby. O’Flynn was remanded in custody until Friday and Clarke was remanded on bail to put domestic matters in order by then.
They both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud.