Brother and sister jailed for faking mother’s will
‘They have allowed their greed, lies and deceit to desecrate our late parents good name’ say two siblings
Elaine Lauro (43) from Lough Moss Park in Carryduff, was jailed for 11 months. Photograph: Paul Higgins
A brother and sister who exploited their mother’s death to fake her will and give themselves her business have been jailed.
Judge Patrick Lynch QC told the pair that by forging a will following the death of their mother Anne Lauro, they had “fractured” a once close family in an offence which “goes to the very fundamentals of family values”.
David Lauro, a Scout leader from Hollybrook Grove in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, and his sister Elaine Lauro, from Lough Moss Park in Carryduff, Co Down, pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation in that on February 26th, 2016, they told their siblings their deceased mother “had signed an original will dated 27 December 2015.”
Mother-of-three Elaine Lauro also confessed to a further offence of using a false instrument, namely a cheque for £167,000 (€185,000), with intent to induce Santander bank to accept it as genuine, on February 25th.
The court heard that bequeathing herself a £154,000 (€170,000) property in Sligo, along with half of the long standing family business of Kavanagh’s jewellers in Belfast city centre, she stood to benefit by £328,000.
Her brother David, who would also have been handed half the business and a £31,000 (€34,000) property in Leitrim, would have received £38,000.
Outside the court, their brother Mark Lauro, standing beside his sister Diane Aston, read a prepared statement. “As a result of David and Elaine Lauro’s fraud we as siblings have been denied the truth of ever knowing what mum’s final wishes actually were.
“Their behaviour goes against what was our mum’s right to have had her last will and testimony followed according to her wishes and her wishes alone. They have allowed their greed, lies and deceit to desecrate our late parents good name. Their conduct cannot be condoned in our society and should never be acceptable.
“We are ashamed of their actions and are satisfied with today’s outcome. We would like to thank our immediate family and friends for their support throughout.”
When the prosecution case was opened earlier this week, the court heard the fraudulent cheque, written by Elaine Lauro six days after her mother died from cancer, “would have cleared out” her account.
Prosecuting counsel Nicola Auret described how the defendants “called a family meeting” on February 28th, 2016 when they showed their three siblings “a document which they claimed was the will of their dead mother.”
Ms Auret said the purported will set the defendants as both executors and witnesses and outlined there were properties and money to be divided among the five siblings. “In particular it was stated that the deceased’s business Kavanagh’s jewellers, a long standing business, was to be given to the two defendants.”
It also bequeathed to Elaine Lauro a property in Co Sligo valued at £154,000 and a property in Co Leitrim valued at £31,000 to David Lauro.
The lawyer told the court that eight months later, the PSNI received a report from Mark Lauro of “his suspicions that the signature on the will had been forged,” so detectives seized the will along with other documents.
Ms Auret said that after the documents had been given to a forensic hand writing expert, “he concluded that the signatures on both the will and the cheque were forged.”
Questioned by police on July 10th, 2017, they denied any fraud had taken place.
Defence counsel Patrick Taylor, acting on behalf of David Lauro, conceded the fraud represented “an egregious breach of trust” but said theire were mitigating circumstances. “I tentatively invite you to give some credence that there is a ring of truth to the assertion from the defendant that it was his mother’s wish that he and Elaine receive the business.”
Conor Lunney, defence counsel for Elaine Lauro, said the offences had caused an “irrevocable split” in the family. He said his client “was the prime mover in relation to both signatures.”
Judge Lynch adjourned passing sentence at that stage, telling the defendants to expect jail sentences for their crimes.
Summing up the case on Friday, the judge said while a guilty plea usually indicates some degree of remorse, “it doesn’t, in my view, in this case” as they had only confessed after their own hand writing expert opined the signatures were forged.
“Your attitude doesn’t indicate any remorse whatsoever,” said the judge.
Describing the pair as “proven liars” who had lied to the police and repeated their lies throughout court proceedings, Judge Lynch said despite their claims it was Mrs Lauro’s wish they would be given the business, “very little credence can be given to that proposition.”
“One simply cannot say what the true wishes of this lady would have been,” he said.
While there were mitigating factors for both defendants given their clear records and eventual guilty pleas, he said the guidelines were clear that in all but exceptional cases, “custodial sentences will almost be inevitable to mark publicly the gravity of the offence.”
“There is an expectation on the part of any person who is terminally ill” that their dying wishes will be respected and carried out but by forging her will, the defendants “took advantage” of their mother’s death, said the judge.
He told the defendants it was clear the family fall out from the fraud “is likely to continue to the next generation”.