Thursday, 28 May 2020

A BUNCH of cults

If you want to be a successful con-artist then start a religion. French authorities are currently prosecuting leading Scientologists with fraud. It's based on the colossal sums the 'Church' charges for their wacky gadgets and personality tests. The victim is claiming she was conned out of thousands after being persuaded to buy 'purification packs' and vitamins. My Sunday World colleague Nicola Tallant co-wrote The Complex which is an interesting insight into the very weird world of Scientology. If the French case succeeds the Church of Scientology, regarded there as a sect, can be kicked out of the country altogether.
Another colleague Jim Gallagher (no relation!) is working hard on his book about Christina Gallagher and the House of Prayer, the Catholic group which has been fleecing its devoted followers for years. It's due later this year, also from Merlin Publishing.

Wednesday, 27 May 2020


For years in Ireland it was accepted that some politicians had taken cash to re-zone development land. This week a former Government press secretary Frank Dunlop was jailed for 18 months for being the bagman during the 1990s. He admitted to bribing eight politicians. Dunlop arrived to court in Mercedes but left in a prison van. The reality, however, is that Ireland is pretty good compared to other countries when it comes to corruption. That doesn't mean it doesn't exists all the same.
The Irish chapter of Transparency International released figures this week which show that perception of corruption in Ireland has started to improve since hitting a low in 2002. Dunlop's revelations came in 2000 during a tribunal into payments to politicians. Ireland's ranking in terms of the international league table went from 11th in 1995 to to 23rd in 2002. Now we're back to 16th. Top is Denmark and in last place at 180th is Somalia. Jailing Dunlop should no doubt improve Ireland's ranking.

Monday, 25 May 2020

SWEET talker

When it comes to being a con-artist some people are just naturals. The Leinster Leader ran a court report on Paul Delaney from Kildare town, Ireland, who, despite the previous convictions for fraud, was able to persuade a number of business people to pay cash deposits for non-existent equipment. It was a classic advance-fee fraud in which he took around €1,000 from each of his targets.
The Garda officer who prosecuted the case commented in court: "I've known the defendant for the past 15 years and if he had to go to work as a salesman he would be the country's number one salesman if he slapped a suit on himself."
Delaney (44) claimed in court the money went on booze and asked for help in dealing with his drink problem. The judge told him he could find out about that in jail and sentenced him to two years.

Friday, 22 May 2020

TALK radio

One of Ireland's newest stations, 4FM, which broadcasts in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Clare and Galway had me on to talk about fraud and the blog. Have a listen and you'll know why I'm a print journalist. Sorry about the quality.

SICK con-artists

Father John Skehan, the priest convicted of embezzling parish funds at Myrtle Beach, Florida, failed yesterday in his legal attempt to get out of jail. His lawyers made the plea that he is suffering from prostrate cancer and that 81-year-old Father Skehan was suicidal. The Kilkenny cleric may well be sick but it's amazing how many fraudsters develop medical problems when they get caught.
Irish citizen Gabriel MacEnroe, who pleaded guilty to $2.8 million ponzi scheme, also in Florida, got bail because of his high-blood pressure. He then fled the country, forcing the US authorities to eventually extradite him from Switzerland.
Fugitive lawyer Michael Lynn used the 'flu as his excuse for not giving evidence in court by video link. There's a High Court warrant out for his arrest after he previously failed to turn up to explain an €80 million mortgage fraud.
Then there was taxman Brendan Murphy, who tried pull off a IR£3.4 million scam in 1997. He tried to change his early guilty plea to not-guilty after his co-accused and main witness died in prison. In court he produced letters to show he had a prescription drug problem and suffered from chronic anxiety, restlessness and was 'bewildered' when he made his initial plea. The judge didn't buy it.

RAVE review

It's always nice when someone says something nice about you. Critical Mick gave The Fraudsters the thumbs up.

Thursday, 21 May 2020


Pfizer made a TV advert to highlight the dangers of using counterfeit drugs which drew a number of complaints in the UK because of its graphic nature. It's worth a look.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

FAKE drugs alert

The World Health Organisation recently launched an internet-based Rapid Alert System for tracking drug cheats. One frightening survey result showed that in 2001 a third of anti-malarial drugs in the Mekong countries were counterfeit. A similar survey in 2004 showed the situation had gotten worse with nearly half the samples tested proving to be fake. The difference between wealthy and developing countries is huge when it comes to stemming the flow of fakes.
The most recent figures from Irish customs show 800 kilos of fake drugs were seized in the last two years, ranging from Viagra to steroids.

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

FAKE drugs

There is a serious safety factor to Pfizer's investigation against the Mills family who are accused of selling counterfeit drugs over the internet (see yesterday's post). In February at the Toronto Police Fraud Squad conference, Lorne Lipkus, a lawyer specialising in counterfeiting, spoke about several deaths caused by counterfeit drugs. With Viagra and Cialis the danger is caused by too much of the active ingredient which can cause heart attacks. There have also been a number of documented cases in which fatalities were caused by counterfeit drugs such as in the 1990s in which 119 children died in India and Haiti after being treated with toxic cough syrup. In Niger 2,500 people died after 50,000 meningitis vaccine doses were supplied to the country.
Last year Ireland's EU Commissioner, Charlie McCreevy, said the EU saw "massive diversification" in the number of counterfeit products. In 2007 the EU reported a 50 per cent increase in the number of counterfeit items that threaten human health, such as fake cigarettes, Viagra and food being removed from sale. Four million packges of fake drugs were also seized at the borders of the EU. The World Health Organisation expects the global market in counterfeit drugs to be worth €70 billion next year. Make sure you know where that magic pill came from.

Monday, 18 May 2020


High Court cases in both Ireland and the UK last week provided an insight into the global scale of the counterfeit drugs trade. Drugs giant Pfizer got a court order after claiming British national Andrew Mills, also known as Butcher, was behind an internet-based operation selling allegedly Chinese-made drugs. As a result a raid was carried out on his house in County Monaghan, Ireland, to seize various materials. Pfizer claim Mills and his parents were selling drugs over the internet for the last three years with a minimum estimated annual turnover of stg£465,000. The High Court in London is expected to hear a case against the three members of the Mills family.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

PROPERTY pitfall

ANOTHER development that caused a lot of tears for Irish investors was the scheme sold by the Oasis group on the Canary island of Fuerteventura. Ryanair had 23 flights a week onto the island from Irish and UK airports. The airline had a deal with a local consortium, AIE, which had promised to pay €4 per passenger. But the flights stopped earlier this year when Ryanair didn't get their money and by which time Oasis had sold out their development.
One of the men behind the deal is Andres Bardeau who ran the Oasis Group which also formed part of AIE. Investors found it hard to get their promised rental income off Bardeau and even struggled to get back the keys to their properties.
Descended from Austrian royalty he uses the title Count von Bardeau in Romania where he has bought vast agricultural holdings. One Spanish investor stung by Bardeau told me he has used his connections to delay and frustrate legal moves. “He knows all the top people. Nothing is done. In Spain this sort of case should be easy to resolve. You wouldn’t believe how arrogant he was,” the investor said.
Several Irish people are taking legal action against his firm, the Oasis Group, which built the properties on the popular resort island. Irish and English investors also told me of rental cheques not being paid.
At least 500 people bought apartments ranging in price from €146,000 to €176,000 at the resort of Correlejo on the island. The property downturn combined with the cancellation of Ryanair services has badly hit the value of the properties.

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

OVERSEAS property

Now that the wheels have fallen off the international property market bandwagon, there are some sorry tales emerging. My Sunday World colleague Jim Gallagher recently wrote about one scheme that collapsed. Daniel Corcoran, a convicted fraudster, convinced friends and family to invest in Florida property. He promised them free furniture packages and two years rent. But some ended up with nothing after Corcoran failed to make mortgage payments. One victim found Corcoran had taken rental income but didn't make the loan re-payments. Dublin fire fighters who collected €1.68 million to invest are also in litigation.
Last year Belfast man Kevin O'Kane was arrested in Turkey where 70 couples from Northern Ireland had bought holiday homes at the Golden Beach resort. The st£4 million worth of deals are also the subject of litigation while O'Kane's Turkish business partner is facing a criminal trial.

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Friday, 8 May 2020

PYRAMID priest

Father Hugh Sweeney has been using his position as a priest to get people to sign up to a network marketing deal. He's not really interested in selling Tahitian Noni claiming the real money was made in getting people to sign up as 'Independent Product Consultants.' He promised that it was possible to make a four figure sum and spoke of millionaires he met who got rich through the scheme. Not only did the priest cross the line from dubious, but legal, network marketing into outright pyramid selling, he also broke the law by making medicinal claims about the €50 a bottle Noni juice. According information leaflets he passed around the juice can help everything from acne to cancer. Parishioners in Glen Swilly, County Donegal haven't been too happy with his commercial activity. One cancer patient claimed he fled under pressure from the priest to sign up.

Wednesday, 6 May 2020


In a recession luxury cars can suddenly catch fire. Irish insurers are beefing up their investigation teams after a significant increase in suspicious claims. Top-end cars, construction equipment and unoccupied properties have been catching fire with unusual frequency. The companies suspect that as the recession bites some desperate individuals are trying to use compensation claims to exit the market. Insurance firms are always quick to moan about fraud, but figures from the Central Statistics Office show that cases of arson have increased by 50 per cent compared to this time last year.
The biggest insurance fraud uncovered in Ireland features in The Fraudsters. The businessman behind it, Michael Byrne from Longford is now back out of jail and running a furniture business from the same warehouse where he used to sell cars. He settled his €1 million tax demand with the Criminal Assets Bureau. He organised over 90 car accidents for which millions in euro was paid out in compensation.