Tuesday 6 December 2016

Solicitor who took out fraudulent mortgage while father's law firm under investigation avoids jail

Sonya McLean and Conor Gallagher

Published 27/04/2016 | 16:11

Declan McEvoy
Declan McEvoy

A solicitor, who took out a fraudulent mortgage in 2009 after his father's law firm got into trouble with the Law Society, has avoided a prison sentence.

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Declan McEvoy (50) was principal at the criminal law firm, William Early Solicitors, in Carlow town, when his father's firm, JM McEvoy in Gorey was being investigated. His father had also previously been State Solicitor in the Wexford town.

However, Mr William Early left the practice in 1993 and had no involvement with the firm since that date. 

The Law Society allowed Mr McEvoy Snr to retire from the firm on the condition that his son took it over. Declan McEvoy later used the €297,000 he fraudulently obtained from AIB in order to clear debts in his father's firm.

McEvoy, who now has an address, in Melbourne, Australia pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dishonestly obtaining a mortgage with AIB for €297,000 on dates between May 5, 2009 and July 20, 2009. He has no previous convictions.

His defence counsel told Judge Melanie Greally that “a series of skeletons started coming out of the cupboard” of the Gorey practice and McEvoy obtained a mortgage fraudulently “to mop it up and maintain both firms”.

“He made a very serious error in judgement” Felix McEnroy SC said “and he tried to solve problems that in many respects had not been his creation”.

Judge Greally said McEvoy had brought disgrace upon himself and his position as a solicitor was an aggravating factor as it involved a breach of trust.

She said such cases would typically warrant a jail term “in the public interest” but that McEvoy's “exceptional” mitigation meant she could impose a suspended sentence.

The judge said she did not believe McEvoy would re-offend therefore the aim of sentencing was retribution, not rehabilitation or deterrence.

She noted the “extreme financial pressure” he was under at the time and his efforts to make a new life for himself and his family in Australia before imposing a 18 month suspended sentence.

Detective Sergeant Martin Griffin told Ronan Kennedy BL, prosecuting, that when McEvoy accepted the offer from AIB it was on the condition that he was the registered owner of the property in Castleknock, Dublin for which he was taking out the mortgage.

It later transpired that his sister was the owner of the house and McEvoy had acted as her solicitor when she later sold it for €310,000 in December 2009.

The buyer had put down a deposit on the property in August 2009, a month after McEvoy drew down his mortgage for the house.

Det Sgt Griffin said McEvoy made the monthly mortgage repayments until the High Court seized all his assets and froze his bank accounts in September 2011.

Another Carlow law firm, O'Gorman and Begley Solicitors, who signed the undertaking for McEvoy's mortgage, were ultimately sued when the fraud was discovered and McEvoy wasn't able to keep up with the repayments.

Their insurance company later paid AIB €245,000, the balance remaining on the mortgage. AIB then reported the case to the Garda fraud squad.

McEvoy had been living in Australia since 2012 with his wife and teenage sons. He returned to Ireland last January, surrendered his passport and pleaded guilty.

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