Northern Ireland news

Shamed bank employee who swindled thousands from friends in pyramid investment scheme is jailed

Lisa McIlroy

A BANK official from west Belfast, who fleeced thousands of pounds from her friends in a dodgy pyramid scheme, has been jailed for a year.

Former Bank of Ireland employee Lisa McIlroy was told she will also spend a year on supervised licence on her release for what a judge described as a "serious breach of trust" which had had a devastating impact on many of her victims.

McIlroy (42) abused the trust of many of her closest friends with two different sophisticated fraud plots - with one victim swindled out of £60,000.

The schemes were described in court as a "financial house of cards" which came tumbling down around McIlroy who was employed at the Andersonstown branch of Bank Of Ireland.

Two of those victims, who wished to remain anonymous, spoke out to criticise the sentence.

One woman, who lost £13,000, criticised the sentence saying she "should've got more" because she had left families with no money and "there's no remorse at all."

Another, who lost £2,000, said: "She definitely should've got more for what she's put our family through but I'm just glad that she got some sort of custodial sentence."

At an earlier hearing McIlroy, from Glengoland Park in Dunmurry, pleaded guilty to 12 counts - five of committing fraud by false representation over the investment scheme and seven counts of theft of cash, all committed on various dates between 13 February 2013 and 2 February 2014.

In relation to the fraud charges, McIlroy swindled £83,000, including £60.000 from one victim, while the charges of theft amount to a total of £42,065 amounting altogether to £125,065.

Opening the facts of the case for the first time last Friday, prosecuting lawyer Ian Tannahill Craigavon Crown Court it was McIlroy herself who alerted police to the frauds - but she portrayed herself as a victim by claiming that a man called Michael Monaghan "had disappeared leaving her with a personal loss of £16,000 and with substantial monies outstanding to a number of members of the public."

Police enquiries however could find no trace of a Mr Monaghan and instead, "it became clear that the defendant was operating a 'Ponzi scheme'."

The lawyer described how McIlroy used her position as a bank official to lead the victims to believe she had access to special products, currency exchange rates and deals which were not available to the public.

"It appears that the currency exchange transactions were used as a means to establish the defendants bona fides and to establish trust with the victim, prior to the offers of 'investment opportunity' being made," said Mr Tannahill.

That 'investment opportunity' formed the basis for the ponzi, or pyramid scheme where McIlroy told her unsuspecting victims that she could invest their hard earned cash "guaranteeing a return of £330 on every £1,000 invested every six months."

The lawyer also revealed that tellingly, when police examined McIlroy's bank accounts, "the defendant would make significant deposits and then travel abroad, primarily to the USA."

He said it was "worth bearing in mind" there were people who had paid cash into McIlroy's pyramid scheme who did in fact get cash back on their investments but Mr Tannahill said those returns "can only ever be financed by fraud in what is essentially is a house of cards."

"The simple fact that a person makes a profit doesn't mean that what happened to them wasn't fraudulent and isn't without consequences for others and the spreading of the web of fraud," he told the court, "we say the culpability is clearly high."

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