Monday 22 December 2014

Fraudster with four lives used tales of friends in high places to draw in victims and rip them off

Caroline Crawford and Sam Griffin

Published 31/07/2014 | 02:30

Conor Brannigan being led away from Roscommon Circuit Court yesterday. Photo: David Walsh
Conor Brannigan being led away from Roscommon Circuit Court yesterday. Photo: David Walsh

A FRAUDSTER who fooled dozens of honest businessmen with his spider's web of lies boasting of million-euro international deals, hundreds of properties around the country and personal friendships with top developers.

As Conor Brannigan begins his prison sentence for fraud, those taken in by his scams revealed how many were fooled by his gift for understating his apparent wealth and influence.

In between his fraudulent business deals, Brannigan was also juggling four women, telling gardai he was living four separate lives. He had a Polish partner and child living in Galway, two fiancees from Roscommon and Kerry and a wife and three children in Tipperary.

He had all the trapping of wealth expected during the Celtic Tiger years. He drove a Mercedes Jeep, and an SUV and paid £39,000 for a Land Rover in the North. He boasted of a helicopter in Galway and wined and dined friends at the Galway Races, according to former friends.

"On the front of it he came across as a very high earner," said one victim of his fraud.

"He would come across as suitably understated, as if he was worth enough that he didn't have to wear a tie every day," he added.

Brannigan added to his litany of lies by boasting of a significant property portfolio and hinting of friendships with high-profile developers.

"He said to friends that he had 200 residential properties around Ireland," explained one victim.

Portraying himself as an accountant and forensic accountant, Brannigan often disappeared, telling people he was travelling abroad for work.

"He told people he was based in Germany and Poland doing accountancy work. There were also allegedly frequent trips to the UK," said one source.

He also often went on trips to the US to allegedly raise credit capital and would quote figures of several million that he had achieved as pledges, according to former friends.

"He would walk down Fifth Avenue in New York and point at a building, saying that was where his venture capital business was based in New York.

"He'd go over to the doorman and have a conversation with him. It was all so credible. His sheer audacity put him in a safe place," added one victim.

Speaking about Brannigan's many failed business ventures, one source said he would run his empire like pop-up shops.

"He would get the in thanks to his incredible credibility, fooling a company but then they would see nothing until it all ground to a halt.

"He has left a trail of really devastated creditors in his wake. It is quite galling some of what he did," he added.

Earlier this week, Brannigan (41), from Stafford Hall, Silver Street, Nenagh, Co Tipperary, admitted defrauding one of his potential brothers-in-law of €250,000 in a land deal. He pleaded guilty to three separate charges of defrauding vet James Hoare in offences committed between 2010 and 2011.

Credibility

He was sentenced to two years in prison, with the final year suspended, by Judge Tony Hunt at Roscommon Circuit Criminal Court who described his conduct as "absolutely appalling".

The wife of Mr Brannigan was not at home when approached for comment by the Irish Independent last night.

A neighbour outside her home in Cornamult in the quiet town of Terryglass in Co Tipperary said Emer Brannigan did not wish to be disturbed as she was finding the revelations very difficult to deal with.

The couple have lived in the village for a number of years but had to move from one house in the town to another due to the fraudster's financial difficulties.

Neighbours yesterday expressed shock. "It has come as a surprise to a lot of people," one neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said.

"It is terrible for her and the three children because they're very young. Hopefully they get plenty of help now and can try to get over all this."

Another local added: "The first a lot of people are learning of this is what they have read in the newspaper. How could anyone know all that was going on?"

Irish Independent

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