A former Limerick solicitor who gave undertakings to a mortgage company to purchase properties that were never bought and which were valued at over €1 million will be going to jail for two years.
Galway man Michael Small (56) gave undertakings to a lending institution in the course of drawing down loans that the money would be applied to the purchase of the properties stated in the clients’ mortgage applications.
The court heard the money was drawn down into an account but the properties were not purchased.
Lawyers for Small said he did not substantially benefit personally from the offences, with the majority of the mortgage money either dispersed to clients, mortgage brokers or elsewhere.
Small, of Renville, Oranmore, Co Galway, entered guilty pleas at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to counts of deception and false accounting on dates between 2008 and 2009. He has no previous convictions.
The offences took place over a two-year period while he was in practice as a solicitor in Limerick and came to light when Small self-reported to the Law Society, which then launched an investigation.
Judge Martin Nolan said Small had represented to a lending institution that he would do something and did not. He said if Small had not given the undertaking, the money would not have been paid out.
Judge Nolan said what happened to the money post these offences was complicated and it seemed the money had gone many ways. He said certain parties seemed to have profited unduly that probably should not have.
He noted some of the injured parties had been recompensed by the Law Society and others, for particular reasons, had not. He said it was a “complicated situation”.
He also noted that Small had misled his accountant, giving rise to the false accounting charges.
Judge Nolan said he accepted Small did not benefit to a great degree from these crimes but said he was the principal cause and the offences could not have occurred without his involvement.
He took into account his pleas of guilty, co-operation and admissions to gardaí. He noted he came from a good family, had excellent testimonials and was unlikely to reoffend.
He said he could accept Small was academically bright but not the shrewdest man and matters got on top of him. He said he was ill-suited to the business aspects of private practice.
Judge Nolan said Small had given a solemn undertaking, however, and had to comply.
Judge Nolan remarked that the whole property transfer system depends on undertakings and the honesty and honour of solicitors entering and discharging oaths honestly.
He said by reason of failing to comply with his undertaking, Small deserved a term of imprisonment and imposed a two year sentence. He granted an application to adjourn the sentence to Thursday next for Small to be taken into custody then.