Saturday 27 December 2014

Irish man wanted by US authorities to face fraud, money laundering, and identity theft charges

Published 29/07/2014 | 12:19

A date will be set for judgment next October in the case of a Co Kildare man wanted by US authorities to face fraud, money laundering, and identity theft charges.

Patrick Lee (41) is alleged to have knowingly engaged in a scheme with others to intentionally defraud numerous US banks and mortgage lenders out of loans for properties, which were never repaid.

American authorities have sought his extradition in order that he be prosecuted for 51 offences including 29 counts of wire fraud, 6 counts of unlawful monetary transaction and 16 counts of aggravated identity theft.

Mr Lee, with an address at Newtown, County Kildare, claims the allegations against him, which he absolutely denies, are incorrect and untrue.

The felony offences carry a total maximum sentence of up to 42 years in prison.

Today Mr Justice John Edwards adjourned the case until October 7 next before remanding Mr Lee, who was present in court, on continuing bail.

Mr Lee’s case will be mentioned again on that day to set a date for judgment.

Counsel for the Attorney General, Cathleen Noctor BL, told the court on a previous occasion that a number of properties were purchased in several locations around Boston between 2006 and 2007 and subsequently converted into one or more apartments.

The scheme involved a number of participants including Mr Lee, real estate lawyers and “straw buyers,” who were recruited to draw down mortgages on the apartments, which they never intended to occupy.

The “straw buyers” were assured the properties would be resold within six months and received up to $20k each in exchange for their date of birth, social security number and signatures, all of which were required to draw down the mortgage loans.

Mr Lee is alleged to have fraudulently prepared appraisals of the properties, even though he was not a fully licensed appraiser under Massachusetts law, counsel said, and he received about $1 million for his role in the scheme.

“All of the properties fell into foreclosure and the lenders lost a lot of money,” Ms Noctor said.

The fraud is alleged to have occurred when the lenders wired the mortgage loans to real estate lawyers who closed the sales. Loan disbursements were made partly in reliance on appraisals forged by Mr Lee, counsel said.

Mr Lee has claimed the proceedings are being maintained notwithstanding the acquittal of one of his co-accused in a Massachusetts court.

Counsel for Mr Lee, Kieran Kelly BL, told the High Court previously that US Customs and Border Protection records showed that his client was outside of the United States when 8 of the 51 alleged offences occurred.

Counsel further submitted that his surrender should not be granted under Irish legislation because 30 of the alleged offences post dated the enactment of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 and should be treated as having been committed in Ireland.

Counsel for the Attorney General, Cathleen Noctor BL, said 22 of those alleged offences were committed while Mr Lee was outside of the US but he had not provided evidence to say where he was and “could have been anywhere.”

She said the indictment allowed for his prosecution in Massachusetts for matters that were committed outside of that jurisdiction.

On the last occasion the US District Attorney was accused of painting a picture with respect to Mr Lee's alleged flight from America. The court heard that Mr Lee had bought pre-paid tickets for flights to Ireland on dates in 2006.

Mr Kelly told the court his client would be exposed to cruel and inhumane treatment should he be surrendered to US authorities.

Counsel said he had a sworn affidavit from an Irish Army Commandant who attested to the view that extraordinary rendition took place and arms were passed through Shannon Airport, despite an official stance by US authorities to the contrary.

He said the affidavit was sent to the US authorities and in response, Mr Lee was told not to worry about it because he was not a terrorist.

“There is enough evidence to show something untoward happened in Shannon. Truthfulness in assertions was enough,” counsel said, for a judge in Canada to refuse the extradition of a Canadian citizen during earlier extradtion proceedings.

In an affidavit opened in court, Mr Lee claimed to have a number of health concerns which he would not receive adequate care for in the US prison system. “I will be removed from my family and my family life will be shattered,” Mr Lee added.

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