The case of solicitors Keith Flynn and Lyndsey Clarke has left many scratching their heads.
The couple were jailed for a series of elaborate frauds on Monday in which they stole almost €400,000 from banks and credit unions only to come a cropper through the vigilance of an official in Bank of Ireland.
"What are the chances of two Walter Mittys like them meeting?" asked one woman as she pondered the fact that Flynn, from a respectable middle class family in Ballintemple on the city's southside, and Clarke, a former Fine Gael local election candidate, veered into a life of crime.
The couple's theft was rumbled by Alan Boland from Bank of Ireland's Financial Crime Unit.
Boland spotted a spelling mistake common to six accounts belonging to six different people so he checked IP data and listened to recordings of banking calls from the six. He noticed a similarity and realised the bank was at a €32,000 loss from bad debts on the loans, so he alerted gardaí.
Det Garda Alan McCarthy told Cork Circuit Criminal Court that the pair created 80 fake accounts using 60 false identities in order to defraud the three banks and 12 credit unions of sums, typically of €10,000-€12,000, for a total of €394,804.
Det Garda McCarthy said the couple, who met eight years ago when Clarke went to work for Flynn at his legal practice, applied for loans using fake driving licences obtained online, fake bank statements, fake payslips and even paid homeless people for their PPS numbers to use in the scam.
Gardaí carried out a search of a luxury apartment that Flynn was renting in Sunday’s Well in Cork in July 2018 and recovered laptops, wigs used for disguises when the duo went to banks and ATMs, 21 fake Irish driving licences, 19 fake bank cards and 16 credit union books.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said it was a highly elaborate and organised crime when he jailed Flynn for four years and Clarke for two years, the difference in the terms being due to her “personal circumstances”.
Although neither Flynn nor Clarke had any previous convictions, someone familiar with Flynn said they were not surprised to see him fall foul of the law, given a certain arrogance, evident even at secondary school at Rochestown College in Cork.
“He always had this arrogance about him, thought he was smarter than everyone else – I saw someone say that all he wanted to do was never work and live a life of luxury, and that was spot on.”
They said Flynn’s parents “paid for him to do a cookery course at Ballymaloe and he worked as a chef for a while” before he got a law degree through the University of London.
Flynn set up Keith Flynn & Company Solicitors in 2006 with offices on George’s Quay in Cork and Capel Street in Dublin. However, he seems to have made little impression on the legal scene in either city.
Clarke is the daughter of Cork songwriter and poet Mary Buckley Clarke, who died last April.
Clarke attended St Aloysius school in Cork city but some comments posted on Facebook after the court case suggested she was a quiet girl with some of her classmates saying they hardly remembered her. Someone who got to know her when she joined Fine Gael painted a similar picture.
“Fine Gael were looking to bring in a woman to run with Joe O’Callaghan in the Cork North-West ward in 2014 to ensure there was gender balance and Lyndsey was living on Blarney Street at the time with her mother so she was approached and she accepted the invite to run.
“She only got 239 votes which wasn’t great. She was naive to be honest because she thought she could come in and because she was a solicitor, she would sweep all before her – that was her attitude. That’s not to be negative about her, she was a nice girl but naive and vulnerable.”
The suggestion that Clarke was vulnerable is echoed by Flynn’s acquaintance. “I don’t know anything about Lyndsey but looking at them walking out of court when they were charged and she was smiling away, I would say she was completely under his spell.”