Friday 20 October 2017

Solicitor swindled over €510k from bank to buy into legal practice

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John Cassidy

A Co Down solicitor defrauded a bank of £400,000 (€512,980) to help buy a partnership in a legal practice and an apartment in England, a court has heard.

David Annett (38), from Church Road, Dromara, pleaded guilty at Craigavon Crown Court to four charges that spanned a five-year period.

The father-of-three admitted defrauding First Trust Bank, two counts of theft and transferring more than £110,000 (€141,070) of criminal property out of his employer's business account.

Nicola Auret, prosecuting, told Judge Patrick Lynch QC that the offences came to light in August 2012 when Annett walked into Lurgan police station.

She told the court that in 2007, while working for Portadown-based JP Hagan Solicitors, he was "approached by a senior partner who asked him if he wanted to become a partner in the firm".

"The offer came at a cost - £250,000 (€320,610)," the lawyer added. "The defendant remortgaged his home at Church Road with First Trust Bank/Allied Irish Bank."

In December 2007, First Trust Bank received his application for a £400,000 (€512,980) remortgage.

Mr Annett, the court heard, already had an existing mortgage that totalled £220,000 (€282,140).

Ms Auret said that another solicitor in the practice signed the mortgage applications to say that he was doing the conveyancing on the property when in fact Annett was doing the conveyancing.

The defendant also applied for an unsecured loan of £80,000 (€102,600).

Judge Lynch QC was told that by agreeing to the remortgage and by releasing the funds, First Trust Bank believed that "they would be the first charge on the property".

In February 2008, the funds were released to JP Hagan's solicitors with the monies to be used to settle the home loan mortgage and to "pay the £250,000 (€320,610) to up take up the partnership in his firm".

However, Ms Aurett said that the home loan mortgage "was not discharged" and "the defendant accessed the business account and transferred the entire amount of monies into his personal account".

Defence QC Alan Kane told the judge that Annett was now a "broken man".

Judge Lynch QC said he needed time to reflect on the large amount of evidence and told the court that he would pass sentence on May 6.

Belfast Telegraph

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