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Dublin: 7 °C Thursday 23 January, 2020
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Two men jailed for inducing dozens to invest in €5.5 million forestry scam

Garret Hevey (43) and David Peile (42) were involved in Arden Forestry Management (Arden FM).

Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

TWO DUBLIN MEN have been jailed for a fraud in which they induced dozens to invest over €5m in a forestry investment scam.

Garret Hevey (43) and David Peile (42) were involved in Arden Forestry Management (Arden FM) between January 2014 and mid-2016 during which 143 foreign investors were induced to deposit approximately €5.5m into the company’s accounts

Detective Inspector Catharina Gunne told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that these investments would have required around 858 acres of land to be serviced but the company only owned 30.2 acres of land when the fraud came to light.

The court heard that in company documentation sent to investors, Hevey used the pseudonym James Baker and Peile went by the name David Marshall. Hevey was in charge while Peile was second in charge and there were a number of others employed in trying to attract investors.

Accounts linked to the firm showed that out of a figure of €501,332 transferred to Hevey, €281,613 of this was spent on Google Ads.

Gardaí began investigating the company in June 2016 when one investor, Kari Wahlstrom, discovered that Arden were not the registered owner of the land he had invested in.

Wahlstrom, a Finnish national, had invested €52,000 in February 2016 and in May he contacted the company and asked to visit what had been identified as his investment. He also asked to be taken to the land registry.

“How do we get over that?”

On 17 May, 2016 Peile emailed Hevey saying “shit, he wants to visit the land registry, how do we get over that?”. Inspector Gunne told the court the victim did visit Ireland and met Hevey and Peile.

He was taken to a forest in Frenchpark, Co Roscommon and was happy with it but when he asked to go to the land registry office he was told there was no time.

On returning to his home in Greece he carried out his own inquiries with the land registry and was “dismayed” to find the land registered to someone else, Inspector Gunne said.

Hevey, who set up the company in November 2013, pleaded guilty to dishonestly inducing investment in Arden FM between 1 January, 2014 and 13 June, 2016.

Hevey, of Brookdene, Shankill, Dublin, also pleaded guilty to three charges of inducing individuals by deception to make payments on dates between September 2015 and May 2016.

The court heard that Peile of Avondale Court, Ballyguile, Wicklow joined the company in 2015. He pleaded guilty to dishonestly inducing investment in Arden FM between 1 January, 2014 and 13 June, 2016 and pleaded guilty to two charges of inducing individuals by deception to make payments on dates between September 2015 and May 2016.

Could not afford the losses

Judge Melanie Greally noted that many of the victims of the fraud had made the investments for their children and could not afford the losses.
She noted that Heavey had roundly rejected the assertion that this was a “Ponzi scheme”. She said while it could not be characterised as a “Ponzi scheme” as such, it was a “simple case of calculated fraud”.

She described Hevey as the “engineer” of the scheme, noting aggravating factors such as the significant harm to those effected and “inappropriate interference” in the dealings of one of the injured parties with the gardaí.

She took into account in mitigation for Hevey his guilty plea, his concessions of fact, his offer to repatriate money held in Dubai, his family circumstances, and excellent employment history.

She noted the publicity the case had attracted and the effect on Heavey’s future employment.

In relation to Peile she noted he had made admissions and was co-operative with a search of his home and in his dealings with the liquidator. She took into account that he was currently employed and had a good work history.

Judge Greally noted as aggravating factors the large number of investors and the significant loss to those affected. She took into account in mitigation Peile’s guilty plea, co-operation, family circumstances and community spirit, his mental health issues and his remorse.

She also noted the potential reputational damage to other by the unauthorised use of endorsements in the brochures and the potential damage to the reputation of the Irish Forestry sector.

Judge Greally imposed a sentence of five years imprisonment on Hevey with the final year suspended and a sentence of four years with one year suspended on Peile.

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About the author:

Declan Brannan and Fiona Ferguson

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