10 Aug 2022

Offaly man facing jail for fake land deals says he has €20,000 for victims

Offaly man facing jail for fake land deals says he has €20,000 for victims

Laurence Murphy appeared before Tullamore Circuit Court

THE Offaly man who owes €140,000 he stole from investors while claiming he was acting for a leading auctioneering firm has come up with €20,000 compensation, Tullamore Circuit Court heard on Thursday morning.

Laurence Murphy, 39, Clonminch, Tullamore, is facing six-and-a-half years in jail for offences involving fake land deals committed in 2016.

The sentence was suspended in November 2019 on condition he pay €105,000 compensation to one man and €35,000 to another, within 12 months.

The case was re-entered by Offaly state solicitor Sandra Mahon when the money was not forthcoming and Judge Keenan Johnson warned Mr Murphy last week that unless he had firm proposals for the compensation he would activate the sentence.

Defence counsel Ken Fogarty, SC, told Judge Johnson this morning that a bank draft for €20,000 was being lodged with his solicitor.

Mr Fogarty also said Mr Murphy had plans to release a 0.05% equity investment in a company which could be realised on May 31 next and that would be added to the compensation.

Mr Fogarty suggested an adjournment for a week to March 25 for the bank draft to clear and a further adjournment to the Circuit Court sittings in June for the other monies.

Judge Johnson said the existence of that investment had “come out of blue” and there was no mention of it before.

He ordered that the €20,000 be paid to the man who had lost over €100,000 and he would then grant “one final adjournment” of the matter.

Judge Johnson said the only reason he was extending latitude to Mr Murphy was in ease of the victims.

He adjourned the matter to March 25.

When Mr Murphy was in court on March 11 last, prosecution counsel Kevin White, BL, explained that the conviction arose when the accused obtained money while he was holding himself out as a property consultant and a man who was working for Savills Auctioneers.

That turned out not to be the case and the money which was obtained for the purpose of purchasing property, or putting down deposits, was never used for that purpose.

Instead, it was put into Mr Murphy's own account in AIB and never returned to the injured parties and no property was ever bought.

Mr Murphy entered a guilty plea in November 2018 and sentencing was then adjourned on a number of occasions for proposals from the accused to raise compensation.

The first proposal was that a loan secured against his mother's home be obtained and subsequently Mr Murphy proposed to sell a site at the rear of the family home but that fell through because the local authority would not grant planning permission for development there.

Mr Murphy told the court last week that he had started a hospitality business in December 2019 but it was totally wiped out last March and he was now involved with a technology company.

He said he also had a percentage shareholding which he could have released by the end of May and which would realise €187,000.

Judge Johnson told the accused, a father of one teenage child, that he deserved to be in jail because what he had done was outrageous, fraudulently producing receipts from Savills and stealing money from vulnerable people who were led up the garden path.

A previous sentencing hearing had been told Mr Murphy had paid €2,700 in compensation for the offences and he was said to have a dissociative personality disorder. He had worked in auctioneering all his life.

He had opened a bank account in the name of Savills and while acting as an agent for that firm, approached a developer saying he was selling land in Tullamore and in Duleek, Co Meath.

Cheques were paid over to Mr Murphy, believing he was paying Savills and the man making the payment received a receipt with a Savills logo and another with a forged signature.

When the man rang Savills he was told Mr Murphy did not work for them and was never employed by them.

Mr Murphy also received deposits from a number of people, including a pregnant woman, for rental properties which did not exist.

The full amount stolen by Mr Murphy was up to €250,000.

One victim asked how Mr Murphy could walk the streets in his expensive suit and overcoat and Judge Johnson said the accused had a cavalier attitude to the court and had funded a lavish lifestyle with his victims' money.

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