Northern Ireland news

`Mean' fraudster used coercive control to con a student out of savings

Michael McBurney (33) was handed a six-month prison sentence which was suspended for 12 months

A "mean" fraudster who used coercive control and manipulation to con a student out of her savings has avoided being sent to jail.

Michael McBurney (33) was handed a six-month prison sentence which was suspended for 12 months on a charge of fraud by false representation, by Judge Geoffery Miller KC.

From Mourne Rise in Newcastle, he admitted conning a young woman out of £360 and persuading her to agree to act as a guarantor on a loan for £10,000.

Downpatrick Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, heard that after meeting the woman, McBurney defrauded her on several occasions over a period from January 14 to November 1, 2018.

McBurney told her he and his family were in urgent financial difficulties and asked her to both lend him money and act as a guarantor on a loan.

Despite having a limited amount of savings, the woman felt pressured to help but was left stressed by the situation when she realised she was not going to be repaid.

During this course of criminality against the young woman, McBurney spent the money she lent him on gambling. Regarding the loan, McBurney repeatedly failed to keep up the repayments, which the young woman had to cover.

The loan company also contacted the woman and told her she was responsible for the loan taken out by McBurney - but the matter was referred to the Ombudsman and they are no longer pursuing her.

Between the money lent to McBurney and the loan default repayments, Judge Miller said the student was "out of pocket to approximately £3,414" - some of which has since been paid back.

During sentencing, it emerged that after reading a newspaper article about how McBurney had committed similar offending against another woman, she contacted the PSNI in 2020.

When he was interviewed by police, McBurney admitted he had borrowed money from the woman and said he gambled most of the money from the loan company.

Judge Miller said that after reading a Victim Impact Statement "it is apparent that the defendant imposed his will upon her, not just to obtain monies from her own meagre earnings as a student but he manipulated and applied what amounted to coercive control over her.

"The impact has been significant and the affects long-lasting."

Judge Miller said he accepted defence submissions including McBurney's guilty plea, his expressions of victim awareness and the efforts he has made with Probation to deal with his offending behaviour.

Branding the offending as "mean", the judge imposed the suspended sentence and told McBurney "you will be aware of the consequences should you commit any further offences within that period of suspension".

McBurney was also ordered to pay his victim £1,800.

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