A former golf tour operator was "robbing Peter to pay Paul", the Circuit Criminal Court was told, when he persuaded by deception two finance companies to loan him a total of €150,000 which he used to try and keep his company afloat.

Tralee Circuit Criminal Court was told that 41-year-old David McMahon, of Ashgrove, Ballyvelly, Tralee had made no personal gain from the deception.

McMahon, who was arrested on foot of a Flight Watch Notification at Dublin Airport in August this year having fled Ireland to the US in 2018, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison - suspended in full as long as he keeps the peace for two years - after pleading guilty to three charges of deception contrary to Section 6 of the Criminal Justice (Theft & Fraud Offences) Act 2001.

Prosecuting Counsel Tom Rice told Judge Elva Duffy that the offences were that he had, on a date unknown between 31 May 2018, and 8 June 2018, dishonestly and with the intention of making a gain for himself or another by falsely claiming that BES Management DAC had formally approved an investment of €600,000 in his company, Premier Irish Golf Tours Limited, did induce Colm McMahon and Phil Casey of Linked Finance to issue a loan for €100,000.

He also pleaded guilty to a charge that between 18 June 2018 and 26 June 2018 he dishonestly, and with the intention of making a gain for himself or another by a deception of falsely claiming that BES Management DAC had approved an investment of €600,000 in Premier Irish Golf Tours Limited, did induce Patrick Fitzgerald to issue a loan for €39,450.

Lastly, he pleaded guilty to 'kiting' or drawing a cheque on his personal account with AIB and lodging it to his company account Premier Irish Golf Tours Limited with Bank of Ireland inducing the bank to permit withdrawals of €40,000.

Investigating Garda Sergeant Ernie Henderson told the court that McMahon, who had originally worked with AIB, set up Premier Irish Golf Tours - a company specialising in tailor-made golf tours for people - in 2014.

He had been in negotiations with BES Management DAC to secure an investment of €600,000 in his company but they informed him in May 2018 that they had decided against it. However, McMahon forged letters to give the impression that they had sanctioned the monies and used these to secure loans totalling €150,000 from two peer-to-peer finance companies.

Separately, as a trusted client at the time of Bank of Ireland he had a facility designation 'cleared for funds’ which allowed him to draw against uncleared cheques.

He defrauded the bank by writing a cheque on his personal AIB account for €40,000, and lodging it to the company account, drawing on the funds before they were cleared.

Det Sgt Henderson said McMahon had once run a very successful company and while some funds may have been used to pay for his trip to the US, much of the money had been "eaten up by the clearly insolvent company while it continued to trade".

Prosecuting Counsel Tom Rice noted that the injured parties were financial institutions and "when eventually AIB bounced the cheque, it was Bank of Ireland that was at a loss".

Pleading for leniency, Defence Counsel Katie O’Connell BL instructed by Eimear Griffin of Padraig O’Connell & Company, said her client did what he did "to rob Peter to pay Paul".

She said he had been passionate about golf and finance and thought he could make a go of his company, he wanted to support tourism in the area by bringing in international clients, and was successful for a number of years but then ran into financial difficulties.

Ms O'Connell referred the judge to reports from McMahon's GP and Counsellor concerning ongoing mental health issues and anxiety from 2010. As well as family pressures, she said he was also under severe pressure from a loan shark he had borrowed €20,000 from.

She also pointed to his prompt guilty pleas to the charges following his arrest in August.

"My client is remorseful for his actions, ashamed and embarrassed. He had been a big member of the local community. He would hang his head in shame walking the streets of Tralee now", she told Judge Duffy.

"He accepts his wrongdoing, he did generate these letters, and he did it to defraud," she said.

"He thought that he could get himself back out of it, by getting these investments he could keep the company afloat," she added.

Sentencing McMahon, Judge Duffy said these were significant monies that had been lost and he had abused his trusted position with his bank and the peer-to-peer investment companies, in the full knowledge that his application for €600,000 was turned down.

She accepted all mitigating circumstances including his loss of standing in the community, his guilty pleas, his personal family and mental health difficulties and that as these events unfolded he was in "a particularly bad state".

She sentenced him to two-and-a-half years in prison, suspending it in full as long as he keeps the peace for two years.

Judge Duffy also disqualified him from acting as a company director for a period of five years.