'Pear Shaped' fraudster given 112 years in jail... but he'll be free in five
A RELIGIOUS farmer who stole €177,000 from seven investors in an elaborate investment scheme has been given a total of 112 years' jail time.
Thomas Elvin (51), from Meenacargagh, Ballybofey, Co Donegal, told the investors he could make millions through his company, Pear Shaped Resources.
But the scheme literally went pear shaped and collapsed, leaving investors out of pocket.
He was found guilty at an earlier trial of illegally operating an investment scheme on various dates between 2003 and 2005.
All the sentences imposed yesterday are to run concurrently, which means Elvin will serve five years in prison.
During his trial, Elvin, whose Pear Shaped Resources was based in the British Virgin Islands, claimed he was a penniless, pious man who wanted to raise millions for benevolent causes.
He operated from a computer on his farm through internet contact with a US aide, Larry Marsella.
Mr Marsella had a plan to raise a 25pc profit every day on high-risk investments on international currency exchanges.
Elvin admitted in court that he hoped to turn $50,000 (€40,000) into $98m (€80m) in between 30 and 45 days. But he said Mr Marsella, whom he trusted, duped him.
Judge O'Hagan was told that €38,000 from "frozen" money had been repaid to one female victim, who lost €102,000 to Elvin. None of the rest of the cash was ever recovered.
The case was adjourned until yesterday for sentence at Letterkenny Circuit Court, where he was facing 28 charges.
Senior Counsel for Elvin, Desmond Murphy, said sending his client to prison would be of no benefit to those who had been left out of pocket.
"Whatever slight chance there is of people getting their money back -- he can't do that if he is in prison." he said.
Barrister Murphy read a short statement from Elvin in which he asked for an opportunity to get people's money back, saying: "Please allow me to be a giver."
But Judge O'Hagan said Elvin's plan was sophisticated and elaborate.
"This was an absolute pipe dream engineered by Mr Elvin and he comes in here and he says he planned no wrong. Every penny went to his benefit."
During the court case, the court heard of Elvin's strong religious beliefs.
Emails were read out in which the Donegal man and his associate in Florida -- Larry Marsella of Loan Doctors -- spoke extensively of their strong Christian beliefs and their desire to "make money to do God's work".
He knew that the two men could not do this one their own, but needed "the wisdom of God".
Mr Marsella told Elvin he prayed to "God, Our Lord Jesus, all the saints and the angels" that he would make Elvin all the money he deserved.
Mr Murphy SC said his client "is a good Christian man, a God-fearing, Bible-loving, small farmer who at all times only wanted to make money so that he could do good works."
But Judge O'Hagan said that it was a serious case of deliberate deception.
"I am asked to keep him out of prison. What message would I send out to deceivers if I was not to send him to prison?"
During yesterday's sentence, Judge O'Hagan was made aware of two further charges against Elvin for operating as an illegal investor in 2007.
During that fraud, Elvin pleaded guilty to taking more than €30,000 from a woman on two occasions.
Judge O'Hagan sentenced Elvin to five years on each of 12 charges of operating as an illegal investor.
He also sentenced him to three years for each of a further 14 charges of obtaining money by deception.
He sentenced him to a further 10 years for the later charges entered for offences which occurred in 2007 -- also for operating as an illegal investor.