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Fraudster who sold forest 'over and over' for €5.5m gets two more years in jail

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A fraudster who sold the same two forests "over and over again" to unsuspecting investors has been given an extra two years in jail following an appeal by prosecutors.

Garret Hevey (43) used the pseudonym James Baker when he incorporated Arden Forestry Management Limited, which offered investment opportunity in the Irish forestry sector, in November 2013.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard €5.5m from 143 investors passed through an AIB bank account in Dún Laoghaire between it being opened in January 2014 and its freezing in June 2016.

Gardaí began investigating the company when one of the investors discovered Arden FML was not the registered owner of the land in which he had invested €52,000.

The investor had asked to visit what had been identified as his investment, at which point an email was sent to Hevey by his co-accused saying "s**t, he wants to visit the Land Registry, how do we get over that?"

The Finnish investor was taken to a forest in Frenchpark, Co Roscommon, but when he asked to go to the land registry he was told there was no time. Upon returning home to Greece, the investor carried out inquiries with the Land Registry and was "dismayed" to find the land registered to someone else.

Hevey, of Brookdene, Shankill, Dublin 18, pleaded guilty to one count of dishonestly inducing investment in Arden FML between January 1, 2014 and June 13, 2016 and three counts of inducing individuals by deception to make payments between September 2015 and May 2016.

He was sentenced to five years' imprisonment with the final year suspended by Judge Melanie Greally on July 27, 2019 which was found to be "unduly lenient" by the Court of Appeal yesterday.

Resentencing Hevey to six years' imprisonment, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy said the same two forests were being sold "over an over again". If the monies had been used for the intended purposes, he said 858 acres of forestry should have been acquired but in reality, the company purchased a mere 30.2 acres of forest.

Mr Justice McCarthy said the fraud must fall into the most serious category.

He said the sentencing judge erred in selecting a headline sentence lower than "in or about nine years".

Mr Justice McCarthy said the sentencing judge also fell into error by attaching too much weight to the mitigating factors. He said a two-year reduction from the headline sentence would have been appropriate for Hevey's "relatively late" guilty plea.

Irish Independent