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Married couple donned wigs and disguises as part of €400,000 fraud from banks, court hears

Former solicitors Keith Flynn and Lyndsey Clarke have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud.

A MARRIED COUPLE who are former solicitors created sixty false identities, donned disguises and paid homeless people for their PPS numbers in order to defraud banks and credit unions of several hundred thousand euro, Cork Circuit Criminal has heard.

Keith Flynn (46) and Lyndsey Clarke (37) of Blarney Street in Cork city previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud, arising out of a garda investigation into the theft of funds from a number of banks and financial institutions over an 18-month period.

Detective Garda Alan McCarthy told the court that the pair created 80 fake accounts using 60 false identities in order to defraud Bank of Ireland, AIB, Ulster Bank, and a number of credit unions by obtaining personal bank loans dishonestly.

He said the criminal activity of the pair, who have a three-month-old child, began in January 2017 when they started applying for personal bank loans using fake identities.

The couple, who got to know each other when Ms Clarke went to work for Mr Flynn at his legal practice eight years ago, took out a number of loans in financial institutions using fake identities. The banks and credit unions are at a loss of €394,804 following the criminal activity of the duo.

Prosecuting Barrister Siobhan Lankford, SC, said the pair were in effect running an “identity factory”.

Detective Garda McCarthy said the couple applied for loans using fake driving licences obtained online, fake bank statements and fake payslips. They even paid members of the homeless community for their PPS numbers in order to use them in their criminal activity.

They also used fake Virgin Media, Airtricity, and Electric Ireland bills and had thirty SIM cards with various contact numbers.

In September of 2017 the Financial Crime Unit in Bank of Ireland became suspicious of activities in six accounts and contacted gardai. An investigation was subsequently launched and in July of 2018 a search was carried out at an apartment the pair lived in at Sunday’s Well in Cork.

The couple were not present for the search. Gardai recovered laptops, wigs used for disguises when they went to banks and ATMs, and a locked safe. Over €92,000 was recovered from the safe which was opened after Clarke and Flynn voluntarily handed over a key.

When gardai opened the safe they found 21 fake Irish driving licences, 19 fake bank cards and 16 Credit Union books in different names.

Detective Garda McCarthy said the duo had opened 19 fake accounts with Bank of Ireland in Cork and Dublin, 19 fake credit union accounts,19 fake accounts with AIB and three fake accounts with Ulster Bank. Loans were approved with all these institutions.

They also had fake accounts with An Post, Permanent TSB and KBC but no loans were approved on those accounts

Detective Garda McCarthy said the loan applications were a “quick enough process” for the pair who had an extensive operation in place.

He said the defendants cooperated fully with gardai upon their arrest. They made admissions of guilt in garda interviews in August of 2018. They said they were motivated purely by financial gain.

Detective Garda McCarthy said Flynn had two children from a previous marriage which had broken down in addition to his young child with Ms Flynn. He opened his first law practice in 2006 in Cork before opening a second in Dublin in 2012.

He said Ms Clarke was the mother of two children one from a previous relationship and her three-month-old child with Mr Flynn. She began working for Flynn in 2012.

The court heard that if the case had proceeded to trial it would have involved an extensive document trail with the pair facing over 300 counts each.

Alice Fawsitt, SC, representing Ms Clarke said her client and Mr Flynn had voluntarily handed over the keys for the safe. She stressed whilst they had robbed from banks they saved the state an enormous amount of money by entering a guilty plea and avoiding a trial. She told Judge Sean O’Donnabhain that her client had a history of depression.

She said that at no time had Ms Clarke attempted to blame her husband but instead insisted she was an equal participant in the scheme.

Ms Clarke she said lost her father in her twenties and her mother has also died. Ms Fawsitt said Clarke was an only child without family support other than an aunt.

She said her client had no idea how she had gotten herself into this situation but she was keen to put her personal affairs in order before entering prison. Ms Fawsitt asked that she be remanded on bail for a few days to get her family affairs in order.

Seamus Roche, SC, representing Flynn said his client had lost his family and business and was depressed having gone bankrupt. The court heard that pair had shown an aberration of judgement in getting involved in the criminal activity.

Mr Flynn was remanded in custody until Friday for sentencing whilst Ms Flynn was given bail until then in order to make arrangements for her children.

The pair were struck off as solicitors in 2018 for matters completely separate to this garda investigation.

They had been suspended in 2016 but were not struck off until two years later. They were struck off for not performing their duties properly in a practice which was deemed to be “chaotic”. The pair had ceased practice in November 2016.

When the married couple first appeared before Cork District Court in connection with the charges they were granted free aid. The court heard Flynn was working as a chef while Clarke was on a back to work scheme.

The pair practised at Keith Flynn & Company. Ms Clarke is a former Fine Gael candidate who put her name forward for the party in the Cork North West Ward in the 2014 Cork City Council local elections. She received just over 300 votes.

Olivia Kelleher