Monday 23 September 2019

Two men jailed for 'calculated' €5.5m forestry fraud that preyed on almost 150 investors

Garret Hevey, of Brookdene, Shankill, Co Dublin. Picture: Collins Courts
Garret Hevey, of Brookdene, Shankill, Co Dublin. Picture: Collins Courts
David Peile, of Bray, Co. Wicklow. Picture: Collins Courts
Image: Google Maps

Declan Brennan and Fiona Ferguson

Two Dubliners have been jailed for a fraud in which they persuaded dozens of people to put over €5m into a forestry-investment scam.

Garret Hevey (43) and David Peile (42) were involved in Arden Forestry Management (Arden FM) between January 2014 and mid-2016, during which 143 foreign investors were induced to deposit approximately €5.5m into the company's accounts.

Detective Inspector Catharina Gunne told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that these investments would have required around 858 acres of land to be serviced - but the company only owned 30.2 acres of land.

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David Peile, of Bray, Co. Wicklow. Picture: Collins Courts

The court heard that in company documentation sent to investors, Hevey used the pseudonym James Baker and Peile went by the name David Marshall. Hevey was in charge while Peile was second-in-command and there were a number of others employed in trying to attract investors.

Accounts linked to the firm showed that out of €501,332 transferred to Hevey, €281,613 of this was spent on Google Ads.

Gardaí began investigating the company in June 2016 when one investor, Kari Wahlstrom, discovered that Arden was not the registered owner of the land he had invested in.

Mr Wahlstrom, a Finnish national, had invested €52,000 in February 2016. In May he contacted the company and asked to visit what had been identified as his investment. He also asked to be taken to the land registry.

On May 17, 2016, Peile emailed Hevey saying “S**t, he wants to visit the land registry, how do we get over that?”.

Insp Gunne told the court the victim did visit Ireland and met Hevey and Peile.

He was taken to a forest in Frenchpark, Co Roscommon, and was happy with it. However, when he asked to go to the land registry office he was told there was no time.

frenchpark.PNG
Image: Google Maps

On returning to his home in Greece he carried out his own inquiries with the land registry and was “dismayed” to find the land was registered to someone else, Insp Gunne said.

Hevey, who set up the company in November 2013, pleaded guilty to dishonestly inducing investment in Arden FM between January 1, 2014 and June 13, 2016.

Hevey, of Brookdene, Shankill, Dublin, also pleaded guilty to three charges of inducing individuals by deception to make payments on dates between September 2015 and May 2016.

The court heard that Peile of Avondale Court, Ballyguile, Wicklow joined the company in 2015. He pleaded guilty to dishonestly inducing investment in Arden FM between January 1, 2014 and June 13, 2016 and pleaded guilty to two charges of of inducing individuals by deception to make payments on dates between September 2015 and May 2016.

READ MORE: Men admit to inducing €5m investment in forestry scam

Judge Melanie Greally noted that many of the victims of the fraud had made the investments for their children and could not afford the losses.

She noted that Hevey had roundly rejected the assertion that this was a “Ponzi scheme.” She said while it could not be characterised as a “Ponzi scheme” as such, it was a “simple case of calculated fraud”.

She described Hevey as the “engineer” of the scheme, noting aggravating factors such as the significant harm to those effected and “inappropriate interference” in the dealings of one of the injured parties with the gardai.

She took into account in mitigation for Hevey his guilty plea, his concessions of fact, his offer to repatriate money held in Dubai, his family circumstances, and excellent employment history.

She noted the publicity the case had attracted and the effect on Heavey's future employment.

In relation to Peile she noted he had made admissions and was co-operative with a search of his home and in his dealings with the liquidator. She took into account that he was currently employed and had a good work history.

READ MORE: Pair raked in €5m of investment through forestry 'Ponzi scheme', court is told

Judge Greally noted as aggravating factors the large number of investors and the significant loss to those effected. She took into account in mitigation Peile's guilty plea, co-operation, family circumstances and community spirit, his mental health issues and his remorse.

She also noted the potential reputational damage to other by the unauthorised use of endorsements in the brochures and the potential damage to the reputation of the Irish Forestry sector.

Judge Greally imposed a sentence of five years imprisonment on Hevey with the final year suspended and a sentence of four years with one year suspended on Peile.

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