Tuesday 23 January 2018

Married dad who had two fiancees and a girlfriend jailed for defrauding future brother-in-law out of €250k

Conor Brannigan (41) who led four separate lives was in prison after admitting a massive fraud

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

A man who led four separate lives was in prison tonight after admitting a massive fraud.

Conor Brannigan was married with three children, was engaged separately to two other partners and had a girlfriend in Poland with another child.

Brannigan (41) from Stafford Hall, Silver St, Nenagh, Co Tipperary admitted defrauding his potential brother in law of €250,000 in a land deal.

He pleaded guilty to three separate charges of defrauding vet, James Hoare of Rooskey, Co Roscommon. The offences were committed on dates in 2010 and 2011.

Detective Garda David McDonnell told Roscommon Circuit Criminal Court that Brannigan met Mr Hoare through the vet’s sister who was his girlfriend.

At various times Brannigan told Mr Hoare that he was an accountant used to acting in land deals and later stated that he was a forensic accountant acting for a London-based venture capital company dealing in distressed properties.

Mr Hoare engaged him to buy a substantial plot of land in Co Roscommon and paid over three sums of €6,000, €25,000 and €219,000 to facilitate the purchase.

In August 2010 he indicated to Mr Hoare that the land could be bought for €250,000. The money was subsequently transferred in the three amounts totalling €250,000 to a bank account controlled by Mr Brannigan.

Mr Hoare, who was working in the UK while his family were at home in Rooskey, had to get a loan of €219,000 from Barclay’s Bank to fund the purchase.

In late 2010 Mr Hoare tried to contact Brannigan to confirm the sale had gone through, only to be told that he was in hospital in Galway and that he had not completed the deal.

Property prices were falling and Brannigan felt that the price of the land could be re-negotiated. He was also talking about his own property deals, which included setting up shops in Belfast, in Dublin city centre and in Tallaght

But with the banks now coming under pressure, Mr Hoare became concerned about his money and Brannigan said he arranged to transfer it along with €4 million of his own money to a bank in Poland.

In January 2011 a new price of €185,000 was suggested for the land and later that year Brannigan became engaged to Mr Hoare’s sister.

The vet received a call in October 2011 to say that Ulster Bank had possession of the land and would sell it for €165,000 and this was agreed. But some weeks later Brannigan advised Mr Hoare that the Commercial Division of the High Court was now dealing with the sale.

Mr Hoare made his own enquiries and discovered that there was no mention of the matter in the High Court, but he found a number of outstanding judgments against Brannigan.

He e-mailed Brannigan asking for his money back and his sister then told him that he had “come clean” to her and the money was gone. His sister was very upset at the revelation.

He received an e-mail from Brannigan admitted “a very deep breach of trust” and confirming that he was in deep financial trouble.

He said that KPMG had seized the money on behalf of a company he had set up with another man. When KPMG were approached, there was no money in the account.

Garda McDonnell confirmed that Mr Hoare was out of pocket for the full €250,000.

In a statement to gardai in Nenagh, Brannigan admitted paying £39,000 pounds sterling for a Land Rover vehicle and further money for work on a jeep. . A sum of €110,000 had been transferred to a bank in Poland.

“I can’t explain it. I was living four separate lives. I was married with three children, had two partners and was engaged to them and a girlfriend and child in Poland”, he said in his statement.

Brannigan was admitted to a psychiatric unit in Ennis where he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

“I am totally aware of how lives have been affected by my actions”, he told gardai.

“I would genuinely think at times that the money was mine and then reality would kick in…I genuinely intended to buy the land”.

The court was told that he was now living alone in local authority housing and had no income other than social welfare.

Defence barrister Stephen Groarke acknowledged that the fraud had “enormous ramifications” for Mr Hoare.

Garda McDonnell said it had “a devastating effect” on the entire family.

Judge Tony Hunt said the amounts involved were so large that there was no prospect of them being repaid by Brannigan and a custodial sentence was required in the circumstances.

“The one thing that stands out is the harm caused to Mr Hoare and his family. The scale of the deception was enormous.

“In my view, Mr Brannigan was very proficient in his dishonesty. But he’s no stranger to stringing people along”. 

Judge Hunt sentenced him to two years in prison, but suspended the last 12 months.

“His conduct was absolutely appalling”, the judge added.

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