Wednesday, 28 October 2020

TRUST me, I'm a doctor

Paul Bint, the UK's King Con, got another jail sentence this week. (Read here) He's pretended to be a barrister, a doctor and even the Director of Public Prosecution. It was mentioned in court that he had been diagnosed with a psychiatric problems. 'Lifestyle' fraudsters like Bint, just live from hand to mouth and don't seem to learn from getting caught. In that sense he's just like Juan Carlos Guzan-Betencourt, John Cronin, Tom McLoughlin and Terry Kirby. They are all gifted at pretending to be someone else, but never made it to class when the teacher was doing the 'criminal mastermind lessons

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

INSURANCE fairy tales

Here's a good story from the BBC about a guy, Mohammed Patel, setting up fake car crashes to defraud insurance companies. He carried out 93 crashes - a very similar number to those organised by the far more sophisticated Irish equivalent Michael Byrne who ended getting four years in jail and a €1 million bill from the Criminal Assets Bureau (see Chapter Four - The Fraudsters).


The mundane reality of fraud made an appearance today. A report (read here) was launched by a Dail committee in which the author, Roisin Shortall TD, said that last year €476 million was saved through "anti-fraud mechanisms" and that the "target" for 2009 is €600 million. She argued that the schemes most open to abuse such as payments for single mothers and job-seekers' allowances should be more closely monitored. There doesn't appear to be any evidence in the report of concentrated efforts by crime gangs to defraud the system as has happened in the in the UK. Usually the fraud is carried out by ordinary people who forget to tell the authorities about a change in their status - such as the Dublin woman who collected her dead mother's pension for 12 years (read it). Then there's the 'lone' parents whose partner hasn't really left at all - not surprisingly they are difficult cases to prove.

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

TAX scam

It's nearly six years since the Irish Revenue Commissioners started investigating a tax-scam in the construction industry. It was a well-organised fraud in which the system for ensuring the tax-compliance of sub-contractors was abused. Today Karl Holmes (age 38 from Home Lawn, Tallaght) became the 32nd person to be prosecuted for his role - he was jailed for 12 months at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. There's another 58 to come. In a similar case another 120 people were tracked down for their role in claiming back tax for work that was never done. The junior recruits usually got between €500 and €2,000 for claiming back tax rebates worth on average just over €8,000. Some of the €1.2 million targeted by the organised fraudsters was stopped before being paid out. Nearly all the 'recruits' ended up paying the cash back - all were too afraid to name the heavy-weight criminals who got them involved in the scam. Two professional criminals involved, Sean Dunne and Anthony Spratt, are now dead. In the meantime the likes of Holmes, who defrauded the taxman of €58,000, are being slowly rolled up by the wheels the justice.

Thursday, 15 October 2020


It's hard to beat Victor Lustig the con-artist who twice 'sold' the Eiffel Tower. A possible close second could be the three men who tried to sell the London Ritz Hotel for €272 million in an elaborate scam in which an investor handed over €1.1 million deposit. Irishman Patrick Dolan and two others, Conn Farrell and Anthony Lee, have been ordered to stand trial next year over the scam.
In January 2006 they told a property agent and a Dutch financier they had an option to buy the famous hotel at well below the current value. They needed the finance to exercise that option and then flip the property for a quick multi-million profit. The hotel was owned by the Barclay brothers who are famous for their secretive approach, a key factor in hoodwinking the investor into thinking he was dealing with a genuine middle man. Needless to say the €1.1 million wasn't wasted.

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Anglo phish

There's something strangely ironic about phishing for account details from Anglo Irish Bank. The Irish government have already spent €4 billion trying to keep the bank afloat. The Director of Corporate Enforcement and the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation are investigating allegations of circular transactions. This week it also emerged the Serious Fraud Office were called in to check out some transactions through its London offices. On top of that the bank had to write off €4.7 million invested with a Madoff scheme. The fraudsters better watch out, they could get saddled with some of the €28 billion in bad loans the bank made. If you're gonna phish a bank, I'd start somewhere else.

Monday, 5 October 2020

BBC 5 on Guzman-Betancourt

Donal MacInytre ran a short piece (eight minutes) on his BBC 5 radio show last night about Juan Carlos Guzman-Betancourt. Discussing the con-artist and the inner working of his mind were Detective Sergeant Andy Swindells and myself. Have a listen...


Saturday, 3 October 2020

SKINT skimmer

Wired have a good article on credit card skimming (read here). It is less prevalent in Ireland because unlike in the United States, the industry has added a chip as well as the mag stripe (the black strip on the back) to debit and credit cards. It is much harder to crack and so far there hasn't been any wholesale skimming of chipped cards, although techies have already demonstrated that 'Chip and PIN' can be hacked. That explains why ATM skimming attacks have almost died off in Ireland, while still on the increase elsewhere. One reader of Fakes, Frauds and Scams told me this week that their penniless student off-spring had their newly issued card skimmed in Dublin. Fortunately the thief didn't get any money because the student didn't have any and only used the ATM to change the PIN. The bank called the student within five minutes to tell her that the card had been skimmed and the card had been cancelled. The ATM in question in Dun Laoghaire is close to a ferry port so it's possible some bottom-feeder of the underworld had just arrived in the country unaware that Irish issued cards are chip and PIN and therefore much, much harder to clone. and was stuck for cash.

Thursday, 1 October 2020

COWBOY builder

Spare a thought for Rod Firth who planned to retire to a house in County Kerry. Set in the countryside outside Killorglin, County Kerry the Essex man bought the bungalow from Daniel Cahill. He recommended his brother Jerome as a builder to carry out renovations. The first picture is the house as it looked before Jerome got going. Things didn't quite work out to plan and €285,000 later Rod's retirement dreams lie in ruins. Despite a €200,000 court order the Cahills are refusing to pay back the cash. They didn't defend the court action, but told me Rod had had hired them as labourers and turned on them when he ran out of cash - then again Rod had a half dozen people lined up to give evidence on his behalf. This is how the house looks now: