Three men who occupied positions of trust in the Newry area appeared in the dock of Belfast Crown Court yesterday on a string of charges related to widespread financial fraud linked to bogus loans and mortgages.
All three accused – former First Trust bank manager Peter Creggan, former solicitor Peter Brassil and ex-financial advisor Damien Pius Mallon – committed the crimes over a period spanning from 2002 to 2008, at the height of the property boom.
Brassil, 51, from Chancellor’s Road in Newry, pleaded guilty to nine offences, namely entering an arrangement to acquire criminal property, false accounting, three counts of theft, fraud by false representation, two counts of conspiracy to obtain a money transfer and fraud by false accounting.
Creggan, 40, from Limekiln Road, admitted 18 offences which include fraud by false representation, seven counts of theft, obtaining services by deception, two counts of fraud by abuse of position, false accounting, removing criminal property, conspiracy to obtain a money transfer and fraud by false accounting.
Mallon, 56, from Drumconwell Road in Armagh, pleaded guilty to seven charges – two counts of theft, concealing criminal property, two counts of transferring criminal property, obtaining services by deception and false accounting.
Setting out the Crown’s case against all three men, prosector David McCaughey told the court that a core of the criminality involved securing loans which were then used to fund the purchase of a number of properties. In some cases the name of the loan claimants were made up, while in other cases loans were granted in the names of entirely innocent and unsuspecting individuals, some of whom held bank accounts at the First Trust’s branch in Newry.
Mr McCaughey said the criminality came to light when an internal investigation was launched at the bank, which led to a police investigation.
Branding the case as “complex”, the prosecutor said during the period of offending, Creggan’s position granted him the authority to approve loans of up to £300,000.
The court heard that in one transaction in 2006, which involved Brassil and Creggan, the amount of money released by the bank via a bogus loan application was £1.276m.
Defence counsel Eilis McDermott QC said Brassil had lost everything and was “deeply remorseful”.
Pleas of mitigation will he heard next Friday on behalf of Creggan and Mallon, before Mr Justice Burgess passes sentence.