A FORMER solicitor fraudulently transferred client’s homes into his own name so he could secure millions of euro in mortgages against them it as been alleged.
Thomas Byrne (47) has pleaded not guilty to 51 counts of theft, forgery, using forged documents and deception between 2004 and 2007. The charges relate to twelve properties and six banks and involves the alleged theft of €51.8 million.
The jury were told that Mr Byrne of Walkinstown Road, Crumlin is no longer a solicitor and now works as a waiter in Dublin city centre.
Today prosecuting counsel Remy Farrell SC opened the case before the jury and told it that one of the most distasteful aspects of the case was that many of My Byrne’s clients were elderly women.
Counsel said most of the alleged offences followed a similar pattern consisting of Mr Byrne transferring ownership of a house into his own name using a forged deed of transfer.
He would then use this property as security to secure millions of euro in finance from banks. In some instances Mr Byrne allegedly used the same property to extract money from multiple institutions.
Mr Farrell described an episode which he said was typical of the offending. In 2002 an elderly client of the accused, Patricia Dunne, decided to make a will with his firm.
In the will she left her home on Bunting Road, Walkinstown to her children, including Michael Dunne, who was a close personal friend of Mr Byrne.
In 2007, news began to emerge that Mr Byrne’s practice was in trouble and that the Law Society was involved. Counsel said that several clients began to enquire about their properties and “the whole thing came crashing down like a house of cards.”
Michael Dunne also made enquiries and found that his mother’s house had been transferred into Mr Byrne’s name and that the solicitor had secured two mortgages against it.
Mr Farrell said there would be evidence that Mr Byrne forged a deed of transfer for the house stating he bought it from Patricia Dunne in 2002 for €240,000.
Counsel said it is not credible that Ms Dunne sold the house to Mr Byrne as just three weeks previously she had made a will leaving it to her children. He also said she had never mentioned selling it and that she continued living in it for years after the supposed sale.
The jury of seven men and five women were told that the events they will hear about occurred at “the very zenith of the celtic tiger” when people were “getting large amounts of money from banks on very flimsy paperwork.”
Mr Farrell said the trial will last up to eight weeks and will be unusual in that it will rely on a large amount of documents which the jury will have to examine. He said it is intended that these documents will be displayed to the jurors on computer screens in the jury box and that no physical copies will be distributed.
Counsel commented that people have been complaining in the media that “white collar” crime is impossible to prosecute because the issues are too complex for juries. Mr Farrell said this is not correct and such cases just require “care and attention”.
He warned that it will not be “a exciting or sexy trial” but that they will be the “hardest working jury in the building for the next few weeks” as this case is not as simple as “two lads beating the head off each other outside a chipper.”
The trial, which is before Judge Patrick McCartan, will resume tomorrow with the conclusion of the opening speech and the beginning of the evidence.