A fraudster whose victims included BBCNI radio and TV presenter Stephen Nolan and This Morning host Eamonn Holmes narrowly escaped being sent to jail today after appearing in court on a total of 76 charges.
The charges are linked to credit card frauds which 32-year old John Cartmill, from Brewery Lane in Ballinderry, admitted carrying out. Most of the offences were committed in February and March 2011.
A total of 43 counts of fraud by false representation involved the use of two credit card belonging to Stephen Nolan, with the amount of transactions totalling around £22,000. Belfast Crown Court heard the cards were used in restaurants, clothes shops and off licences.
Also de-frauded by Cartmill was Belfast-born TV presenter Eamonn Holmes. These offences, which were all committed in February 2011, included transactions to local companies for building materials and amounted to around £17,000.
Belfast Crown Court heard Cartmill’s other two victims included a man he had known for around ten years and whose identity he effectively stole, and a man called Anthony Banks, who appeared on the TV programme The Secret Millionaire.
Crown prosecutor Philip Henry branded the criminality as “a sophisticated fraud.” In the case of Mr Nolan, Cartmill rang the bank and asked for personal details to be changed, as well as asking the bank for a replacement card to be delivered to an address in Belfast. He also rang requesting the credit limit on the card be increased.
Cartmill even set up an email address in Mr Nolan’s name, which Mr Henry said displayed a “multi-layered approach” to his offending. One of Mr Nolan’s cards was used 43 times, while two transactions were made on a second credit card. When the offending came to light, Cartmill was identifed from CCTV in some of the premises where he made purchases.
The court heard that Cartmill used a birth certificate of someone he had known for years to acquire a passport. An account was opened in this man’s name and scores of transactions were then carried out using the victim’s name. This included withdrawing euros from Post Offices around Northern Ireland, as well as booking flights returning from Portugal and Amsterdam.
In the case of ‘Secret Millionaire’ Anthony Banks, he managed to pursuade a bank he was Mr Banks, then told them he was in Barbados, that his credit card had been stolen and requested they send a replacement to a hotel in Belfast. This card was subsequently used around four times between December 2010 and February 2011.
Defence barrister Greg Berry QC said his client was acting under duress, describing him as a “cog in a wheel ... a facilitator.” Telling the court “there is no Maserati parked outside this accused’s house”, Mr Berry said Cartmill did not display any signs of wealth or a lavish lifestyle as “the benefits of this criminal conduct seems to do to other people.”
Mr Berry also pointed out that Cartmill was jailed last year for similar offences, adding if the court had been aware of the current offences then, all the matters against his client could have been dealt with at the one time.
Judge David McFarland - the same judge who dealt with and jailed Cartmill last autumn - told the court it was clear others were involved in the offending and accepted Cartmill was “a cog in this particular criminal machine.”
Telling Cartmill he had assumed the identities of real people, the Judge said that once he had possession of credit cards and pin numbers, it was “relatively easy” to use these cards.
Judge McFarland also spoke of a “degree of sophistication” but said the offences “came to light once the individuals noticed there was strange activity on their accounts.” This, the Judge said, ultimately led to the police knocking at Cartmill’s door.
When Cartmill was jailed by Judge McFarland last year, he was placed on a year’s supervised licence when he was released from prison. Acknowledging that since his release Cartmill had been working well with probation, the judge handed him a two year prison sentence, which was suspended for two years.