Wednesday 7 December 2016

Conwoman left a trail of destruction in her wake on both sides of the Atlantic

Published 19/05/2015 | 02:30

Julia Holmes and Tom Ruttle
Julia Holmes and Tom Ruttle

A 63-year-old grandmother makes for an unlikely - and therefore the perfect - conwoman.

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Julia Holmes had the notorious distinction of being investigated by police on both sides of the Atlantic as well as both sides of the Border.

The glamorous granny, with a penchant for wigs and false identities, emigrated from Northern Ireland to the United States in 1981 and set up home in the affluent town of Athens, close to Dallas.

She settled into Texan life, married local man Clyde Parrish, became a popular member of the local Republican Party and even organised a memorial for the former US President Ronald Regan.

However, the "charming" fraudster was also running a $500,000 (€440,000) property scam that eventually saw her deported back to Northern Ireland in 2006.

A federal court case involving her husband, heard Holmes - then going by her married name of Parrish - had devised a scheme to defraud investors by encouraging them to invest in property in Ireland that she claimed to own.

She pleaded guilty to wire fraud and was sentenced to 27 months in prison in October 2005 and was later sent home.

Holmes, who is said to have used around 40 different aliases down the years, is alleged to have posed as a wealthy widow on her return to Ireland and variously introduced herself as a psychologist and a life coach.

She has been wanted by the PSNI since 2011 after she went on the run as she was due to stand trial on further fraud charges.

Following a police investigation into an alleged stg£18,000 (€25,000) fraud, Holmes was due to answer two charges of fraud by misrepresentation and was on bail at the time of her disappearance.

When she failed to turn up at a scheduled court appearance in Newtownards in January 2011, an arrest warrant was issued for her.

The grandmother is believed to have fled south across the Border and was reported to be living around counties Galway, Clare and Limerick.

While in Askeaton, Co Limerick, she is believed to have used the names Julia Ruttle and Croen Ruttle and continued to leave a trail of destruction in her wake.

One local woman said last month how her husband, who carried out work on a property for Holmes, was owed up to €60,000.

Another local businessman said he was owed several thousand euro after he did some work for her on her latest business venture, as a honey producer called Irish Bee Sensations.

The honey, said to have been produced by "bees fed on wild heather" was widely lauded and picked up an award at the Irish Food Awards last year. The proud beekeeper Holmes happily posed for photographs despite her wanted status.

However, Holmes was later suspected of repackaging supermarket-bought honey, which she sold on for large profits to upmarket retailers.

The businessman recalled meeting her in Kinsale to get some of his money.

"I asked her what her address was so I could call to her house. She said strictly no address. 'I'll meet you down town,' she said. She was sitting at a bench and obviously had a wig on. She made no effort to hide it. Then she said: 'I'm dying with cancer'. I felt awful.

"I was supposed to be getting a larger payment but when she started telling me about her chemo, I said: 'Don't worry'.

"She got me hook, line and sinker. I was totally fooled."

Gardaí in Limerick were aware of several cases regarding alleged scams. However, it is understood they were treating these as civil cases.

While in Askeaton, Holmes was in a relationship with local farmer Thomas Ruttle (56). However, there is no suggestion Mr Ruttle had anything to do with the alleged fraudulent activities.

Irish Independent

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