Monday 27 March 2017

Man who blew £435,000 'gift' cleared by jury of Ritz scam

Wesley Johnson and Barry Duggan

A RETIRED Limerick construction manager has been cleared of involvement in an ambitious scam to sell London's famous Ritz Hotel for £250m (€300m).

Patrick Dolan (68) told a court during a four-week trial in London that he blew £435,000 given to him by a friend on horses, cars, and "a good time".

Telling the jury he spent the rest on himself, Dolan said: "I had a good time. A wise man told me there's no shops in the graveyard."

Yesterday he was cleared by a jury at Southwark Crown Court of conspiracy to defraud between January 2006 and March 2007.

Mr Dolan who gave an address at Philip Lane, Tottenham, north London, and another defendant, Anthony Lee (49), had been accused of targeting property dealer Terence Collins because of his interest in the high stakes world of trophy properties.

Mr Lee, an unemployed lorry driver, convinced Terence Collins that he was a "close friend and associate" of the reclusive billionaire Barclay brothers, who own the prestigious hotel in Piccadilly, London.

But the Barclays had never even heard of Lee and were completely unaware he was claiming to be able to sell their landmark building.

The court heard Mr Collins told backers who advanced £1m that the reclusive Barclay brothers had "secretive reasons" for selling The Ritz through a third party -- Mr Lee.

After Mr Lee received the money, he almost immediately transferred £435,000 to his friend Patrick Dolan.

Mr Dolan said he blew the money on a good time. He said he took out up to €40,000 cash a day for gambling and lost €185,000 on horses. He also bought a Mercedes and paid off his mortgage.

Dolan previously told the court: "I paid off the little things, credit cards and things. I didn't owe much money to anyone. I spent the rest on myself."

"Forty thousand a day on races. I had a good time. I know everything about horses. I know them back to front," Dolan said.

Dolan, who said he was unemployed and mainly relied upon his wife for money at the time, also claimed he was being framed by wealthy businessmen.

"I was set up by rich people," he said. "I'm only an ordinary man but these rich people were kicking me round like a football," Dolan said.

He said that neither he nor Lee had ever completed a single property deal successfully and denied he was "heavily involved" in the scam to sell The Ritz to make money.

Dolan said the £1m payment had nothing to do with the Ritz Hotel and related to a completely separate property deal in St Neots, Cambridgeshire.

While the jury yesterday cleared Dolan of conspiracy to defraud, Lee, from Broad Lane, Beal, Goole, East Yorkshire, was convicted of obtaining the £1m payment by deception after more than 14 hours of deliberations. Lee was also cleared of conspiracy to defraud between January 1, 2006 and March 30, 2007.

The pair's solicitor Conn Farrell (57) of Cambridge Road, Aldershot, Hampshire -- who was accused of lending a "veneer of legitimacy" to the scam -- was cleared of a conspiracy charge earlier in the week after he told the jury he was simply acting on his clients' instructions.

Irish Independent

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