Tuesday 16 July 2019

Judge shows mercy to woman in 'tragic case' of €160,000 fraud

Stock photo
Stock photo

Nicola Donnelly

A Dublin woman signed forged documents for a €160,000 mortgage application but avoided a conviction when she made a "substantial donation" to charity.

Natalie Hughes (40) claimed she was unaware that the documents, which were prepared by a third party for a mortgage broker, were forged and "blindly" signed them in a "desperate attempt" to buy a family home.

In what was described as a "tragic case" by her solicitor, Cahir O'Higgins, Ms Hughes produced the documents at Bank of Ireland in Drogheda, Co Louth.

However, she was refused the mortgage and there was no loss to the bank, Drogheda District Court was told.

The court heard Hughes told the arresting garda she would have made the repayments had she been given the mortgage.

The defendant, of Melrose Grove, Clondalkin, Dublin, pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud on dates between May 20 and December 16, 2015.

She further pleaded guilty to one count of deception by using the three false documents on her mortgage application on the same dates.

She has no previous convictions.

Defence solicitor Mr O'Higgins said it is "an extremely tragic case".

"She was reckless and blindly signed documents prepared for a mortgage broker by a third party," said Mr O'Higgins.

He said there was no loss of money and the mortgage was for €160,000.

Mr O'Higgins said the defendant has no previous convictions, "not even a parking ticket".

"She also made a substantial donation to charity and she is a nervous wreck," he said.

Judge John Coughlan suggested the Probation Services speak with the defendant and the prosecuting garda to see if a probation report would help.

After a short consultation, a probation officer told the court that the defendant is "of low risk of re-offending, has no addiction or mental health issues and has 15 years service working with vulnerable adults".

"There is no reason for the Probation Services' assistance," the probation officer told Judge Coughlan.

Before finalising the case, Mr O'Higgins told the judge: "I understand your benevolent practice of giving people a chance. She has made a substantial donation and it was in an act of desperation to house herself."

Judge Coughlan said: "This is not a court of law, it is a court of justice and if I convict her, even give her the Probation Act, she may lose her job," and struck the case out.

Irish Independent

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