Man arrested over complex €20m mortgage fraud using identities of 16 people
Success of the fraud hinged on using forged documents to deceive property registration authorities
Banks loaned money in mortgages for the purchase of 12 properties and when the mortgages fell into arrears the financial institutions pursued payment. Photograph: iStock
Gardaí have arrested the chief suspect for a complex mortgage-based property registration fraud using the identities and bank accounts of 16 people, during which banks were conned out of an estimated €20 million.
Banks loaned money in mortgages for the purchase of 12 properties and when the mortgages fell into arrears the financial institutions pursued payment. But they soon learned the properties had been sold, the proceeds of the sales had disappeared and the properties were owned by innocent people who had bought them in good faith.
The success of the fraud hinged on using forged documents to deceive property registration authorities into accepting the properties had no outstanding mortgages attached when they were being sold.
Informed sources said while a batch of mortgage transactions had come to the attention of the Garda and had been under investigation for some time, detectives in the Republic had not ruled out the possibility other frauds had also been orchestrated by the same main suspect.
That man was in custody in Co Louth on Wednesday after his arrest there. His is the ninth arrest to date by investigating gardaí in the course of a criminal inquiry by the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau that began two years ago.
Sources said the 37-year-old from the north east arrested on Wednesday was the chief suspect and that some of the other people detained in recent months were suspected of a lower level of involvement, including allowing their bank accounts to be used.
Gardaí have also not ruled out the possibility that some of the people whose names appeared on forged and bogus documents and records, or whose bank accounts were used, were not actively involved but their identities were used to further what was described as “a very complex fraud”.
The suspect was not well known to gardaí and was described as “a nobody”, though gardaí suspect he had some training in financial services, possibly accounting.
The Irish Times understands a large collection of forged documents and fabricated identities, including nonexistent solicitors’ firms, had been created by the chief suspect. A total of 12 properties were purchased with mortgages and six were sold on, with the mortgages outstanding, after property registration authorities had been duped into believing there were no outstanding charges on the six properties.
Informed sources said the deception related to the property registrations was successful because of the great effort that went into that part of the scam. For example, those behind the fraud created two bogus solicitors’ firms which existed only on paper and whose identities were based entirely on fictitious names, addresses and other details.
Forged deeds and other documents were then drawn up, signed by the fictitious solicitors and even fictitious peace commissioners, to ensure properties with outstanding mortgages could be registered as mortgage-free, thus allowing for their resale and their value to be realised by the fraudsters.
There was a forensic level of attention to detail with those behind the frauds having stamps made for the two fictitious solicitors’ firms, which were registered as companies, so documents could be signed and stamped when required.
The suspect arrested on Wednesday was being held at Dundalk Garda Station under Section 50 of the Criminal Justice Act 2007. He can be detained for up to seven days without charge.