Gardaí are examining a growing number of complaints against former international hockey player Catriona Carey, with allegations from about 25 parties now having come to the attention of investigators.
The Garda inquiry looks set to become protracted because of the volume of potential victims and the international dimension of Ms Carey's business. Her company, Careysfort Asset Estates, is registered in England though she is based in Kilkenny. There are bank accounts related to the business in both Belgium and Germany, which will require an international trawl to unpick.
Some people have alleged they paid Ms Carey sums up to €60,000 up front for financial services after they got into difficulty with their mortgages. These payments and the manner they were secured is now under investigation.
The inquiry, which is being conducted by detectives in the Garda's Carlow-Kilkenny division, is also investigating if Ms Carey was providing financial services without the proper licences from the Central Bank in place, which is a criminal offence.
Gardaí must now take witness statements from the complainants and must generate bank records for all of the payments made, which is likely to take months.
While Garda searches were carried out in Kilkenny on Tuesday, including at Ms Carey’s home, it is unlikely she will be questioned by gardaí for some time. The evidence gathering phase of the inquiry must be substantially completed before its findings could be put to her.
It is alleged Ms Carey offered to provide a financial service to people whose mortgages had run into difficulty. It is alleged Ms Carey promised her company would buy her client’s distressed loans from their lenders at a discounted rate, claiming the banks would write off the balance as a bad debt. She would then offer the clients the discounted mortgages and put in place the loans for them, with her company profiting from the ongoing interest payments.
It is alleged the main precondition of the arrangement was that deposits were paid in advance.
Some people interviewed by journalist Paul Murphy on RTÉ Investigates last month claimed they paid sums as large as €60,000 and €35,000. Some were in cash and others were wired to accounts in Belgium and Germany.
While Ms Carey, an accountant by profession, drew up contracts and promised to refund the money if the deals were not conducted to the clients’ satisfaction, they claim they were not refunded their deposits.
Ms Carey, who lives in a luxury home in Kilkenny, won 72 caps playing hockey for Ireland for eight years before retiring from international duty as a 28-year-old in 2006.
She has two previous convictions relating to her VAT returns, dating back to 2006, and was fined €750. She was also given a suspended sentence of eight months two years ago over her handling of a cheque for €948. A salon she was working for intended the cheque to be paid to the collector general though Ms Carey inserted herself as the payee and stole the money.