Pensioner jailed for ‘masterminding’ elaborate mortgage scam

Wicklow man jailed for four years for €1m fraud after jumping bail and fleeing country

‘It is a fraud at the higher end of the scale. The dishonesty is virtually complete’. Photograph: Alan Betson

A pensioner who orchestrated an elaborate mortgage scam where Bank of Ireland was defrauded of almost €1 million has been jailed for four years.

Patsy Walsh (69) from Tinahealy, Co Wicklow had been due to be sentenced in December 2014 after he pleaded guilty to dishonestly obtaining mortgages by deception contrary to Section 7 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences Act) 2001.

But Walsh jumped bail and fled the country only to be arrested on a European Arrest Warrant in Liverpool last month when he reported an incident to the Merseyside police and they carried out a background check and found he was wanted in Ireland.

Sgt Mary Skehan told Cork Circuit Criminal Court on Thursday that Walsh was the main orchestrator of the elaborate scam whereby Bank of Ireland paid out €970,000 in fraudulently obtained mortgages between February 2009 and September 2011.

READ MORE

The direct or indirect benefit from the complex scam amounted to over €765,000 for Walsh, who ended up owning all but two of the six houses which were located in counties Cork, Kerry and Tipperary.

Sgt Skehan told how Walsh was involved in the construction business in the UK and Ireland but got into financial difficulties and between February 2009 and September 2011 began operating under a number of aliases.

False identities

Walsh created false identities with the assistance of a bookeeper from Cork city who created false driving licences, P60s, PPS numbers and payslips for several individuals whom he recruited to pose as legitimate purchasers of houses.

Walsh introduced the people with the false identities to mortgage brokers and got them to sign false papers before getting a solicitor to obtain the mortgages on the six properties. He paid those he recruited varying sums ranging from a few hundred euros to €5,000, a previous hearing was told.

The six mortgages included one for €160,650 on a house at Powerline, Moyvane, Listowel, Co Kerry and one for €126,000 at Lacey Avenue, Templemore, Co Tipperary as well as two mortgages of €161,460 and €157,000 on two houses at Park View Close in Buttevant in Co Cork.

They also included a mortgage for €157,000 on another house at Saddler's Lane in Buttevant, Co Cork, as well as one for €207,000 for a property at Douglaside, Gortroe, Lombardstown near Mallow in Co Cork, a previous court hearing was told.

‘Orchestrator of this scam’

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said on Thursday that Walsh was the mastermind behind a very carefully and deliberately planned fraud. “This man was the orchestrator of this scam. He was there at conception and he was there to supervise every aspect of this scheme of dishonesty.

“He was in it at all steps even to the extent of setting up false PPS numbers. Bank accounts were opened years previously (for those who would be brought in to apply for mortgages). Thinking about this went on for a long time. It all comes back and rests at Mr Walsh’s door.

“A huge sum of money was involved. He stood to benefit in cash or kind to the amount of €765,000. There is still a substantial shortfall (for the bank). He did co-operate with the bank, allowing repossession of certain properties and he co-operated in the sale of those properties.

“But it is a fraud at the higher end of the scale. The dishonesty is virtually complete. It is organised, determined and continuous and it all emanates from this man,” said Judge Ó Donnabháin as he sentenced him to six years with the final two years suspended.

The majority of the others involved in the scam were dealt with by Judge Ó Donnabháin in December 2014 when he disposed of their cases by imposing, in the main, suspended sentences after they too pleaded guilty to fraud offences.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times