A married couple, who are former solicitors, have been jailed for defrauding a number of banks and credit unions of almost €400,000.

Keith Flynn, 46, and 37-year-old Lyndsey Clarke, of Blarney Street in Cork city, created more than 60 false identities, donned disguises and paid homeless people for PPS numbers in order to carry out the fraud.

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin sentenced Flynn to four years in prison taking into account his plea and cooperation.

He sentenced Clarke to two years in prison due to a difference in their circumstances.

The pair appeared before Cork Circuit Criminal Court today for sentencing after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud at a previous hearing last October.

It followed a garda investigation into the theft of funds totalling €394,804 from a number of banks and financial institutions over an 18-month period.

Detective Garda Alan McCarthy of the Economic Crime Investigation Unit had told Cork Circuit Criminal Court that the pair applied for loans using fake driving licences obtained online, fake bank statements and fake payslips.  

They also used fake Virgin Media, Airtricity and Electric Ireland bills which they provided to the banks and credit unions that they defrauded while also providing details to An Post, Permanent TSB and KBC to create fake accounts but no loans were approved on these accounts.

Judge Ó Donnabháin described the fraud as an elaborate and criminally purposed scheme.  

"It was elaborately thought out and both defendants were completely culpable," he said.

He acknowledged that the level of organisation was such that the cooperation given by the defendants was significant.  

Had a trial gone ahead, Clarke would have faced 388 charges and Flynn would have faced 389 charges.

The judge also ordered that €100,685 found in a safe belonging to the two be returned to the financial institutions on a pro-rata basis after the Bank of Ireland receives €27,671.  

He said the Bank of Ireland deserved to get more because it was the one that found the fraud.  

"Without their attention to detail, it is unknown how long this scheme would have gone on for, given there was some somnolence on the part of other institutions," the judge said.

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

They had been suspended in 2016 but were then struck off two years later for not performing their duties properly in a practice, which was deemed to be 'chaotic'.  

The pair ceased to practice in November 2016.

When the married couple first appeared before Cork District Court in connection with the charges they were granted free legal aid.  

The court heard at the time that Flynn had been working as a chef, while Clarke was on a back-to-work scheme.