A married couple who are former solicitors created 60 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 37-year-old Lyndsey Clarke 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 Clarke went to work for 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 couple.
Prosecuting barrister Siobhan Lankford said the pair were in effect running an "identity factory".
Det 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 30 SIM cards with various contact numbers.
In September 2017, the Financial Crime Unit in Bank of Ireland became suspicious of activities in six accounts and contacted gardaí.
An investigation was opened and in July 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. Gardaí recovered laptops, wigs used for disguises and a locked safe.
More than €92,000 was recovered from the safe, which was opened after Clarke and Flynn voluntarily handed over a key.
When gardaí opened the safe they found 21 fake Irish driving licences, 19 fake bank cards and 16 Credit Union books in different names.
Det Garda McCarthy said the couple 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.
Det 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 gardaí upon their arrest. They made admissions of guilt in garda interviews in August 2018. They said they were motivated purely by financial gain.
Det Garda McCarthy said Flynn had two children from a previous marriage, which had broken down, in addition to his young child with Clarke.
He opened his first law practice in 2006 in Cork, before opening a second in Dublin in 2012.
He said Clarke was the mother of two children, one from a previous relationship and her three-month-old child with 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 Clarke, said her client and Flynn had voluntarily handed over the keys for the safe.
She stressed whilst they had defrauded the banks, they saved the State an enormous amount of money by entering a guilty plea and avoiding a trial.
She told Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin that her client had a history of depression.
She said that at no time had Clarke attempted to blame her husband, but instead insisted she was an equal participant in the scheme.
Clarke she said lost her father in her 20s 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 got herself in to 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.
Flynn was remanded in custody until Friday for sentencing, whilst Clarke 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.