Bank manager, solicitor and estate agent jailed for mortgage fraud
Three men have been jailed for their parts in a multi-million pound mortgage fraud and money-laundering scheme.
The trio all worked in the Newry area of County Down.
Peter Creegan, from Liska Manor, Newry, once managed the First Trust bank in Newry, Peter Brassil, from Chancellor's Road, Newry, is a former solicitor, and Damien Mallon, from Drumcomwell Road, Armagh, was an estate agent.
Police described their investigation as "complex and far reaching".
The three men falsified mortgage applications totalling millions of pounds.
The fraud involved eight properties and amounted to more than £3m.
It was carried out over a period spanning from 2002 to 2008, at the height of the property boom.
All three had pleaded guilty to charges that included theft, false accounting, concealing criminal property and transferring criminal property.
Some of the applications were made in the names of people who did not exist, including a fictitious BBC producer.
Others were unsuspecting innocents who had their identities stolen and used by the gang.
In some cases the value of the properties was vastly inflated, leading to bigger mortgages and greater opportunities for the laundering of money.
Det Chf Insp Todd Clements of the Police Service of Northern Ireland's (PSNI) Organised Crime Branch said his officers spent years following a massive international paper trail in a bid to bring the trio to justice.
As part of probe - codenamed Operation Radix - officers also uncovered the trio had used false identities and undisclosed companies to carry off their multi-million pound fraud.
DCI Clements said: "Our investigation began in 2008 when we were advised by First Trust bank about irregularities at its Newry branch.
"This marked the start of a massive investigation centred on three suspects and their activities in submitting, processing and sanctioning loans and mortgages.
"Loans were applied for using either bogus identities or the names of individuals who had no knowledge of the applications.
"Each defendant used their respective positions of trust to obtain loans to buy land or properties in Armagh and Louth between 2002 and 2008 when the property boom was at its height. These were sophisticated and well-planned frauds which involved serious breaches of trust.''
DCI Clements said that more than 100 police officers carried out a series of searches in 2009 in south Armagh to seize documents and other material as part of the investigation.
He also revealed that it took one month for 30 detectives to catalogue all the papers in the case.
A lawyer for Creegan, a 47-year-old father of three, said his client's story was a tale of greed, hubris and a spectacular fall from grace, maintaining that his client had "lost everything".
He said the offences were "of their time", highlighting the phenomenal growth of the property market from the turn of the century until the crash of 2007.
"He [Creegan] saw other people making money out of property and thought he too could make this sort of money," the lawyer said.
'Web of deceit'
"He thought this was some sort of El Dorado where he could succeed without any of his clients suffering a loss. This was the cardinal error that he made."
The judge, however, said he was satisfied that Creegan was the prime mover in the scam.
"He sat at the centre of this web of deceit," he said, adding that he believed it was Creegan who had approached 51-year-old Brassil and brought him into the scheme.
Brassil had earlier told the court that, at the time of the offences, he had been addicted to cocaine, spending £500 a week on the drug.
Creegan was jailed for two years with another year on licence, while Brassil was sentenced to a year in prison and a year on licence.
Mallon, 56, and a father of five, whose role the judge said was minor in comparison to the others, was given a year in jail.