Dromara solicitor avoids jail sentence

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A Dromara solicitor who teamed up with a property speculator to swindle banks, have both avoided jail sentences.

At Belfast Crown Court on Thursday it was heard how Michael Robin Burns (50) of Skeagh Road, helped Trevor McClintock (44) of Upper Malone Road, Belfast defraud banks before the property crash of 2008.

McClintock pleaded guilty to five counts of fraud by false representation against Barclays Bank and the Bank of Scotland on dates between July 2008 and April 2009.

Burns became a director of a number of companies while his co-defendant controlled under the name of The Wellington Group.

He gave false undertakings to the banks that if hundreds of thousands of pounds were lent to McClintock’s company as bridging loans, the firm of solicitors he worked for had the available cash needed to guarantee the loans.

However during the trial it was heard the Belfast solicitor’s firm had no such funds.

In April, Burns was given a two-year sentence, suspended for two years, after he pleaded guilty to nine counts of fraud by false representation.

The judge said he had ‘tried and failed’ to understand why Burns had got caught up in the first place, as he had ‘suffered grievously and permanently.’

Mr Justice Weir said Burns’ actions were a last ditch effort ‘to buy time’ for McClintock with lending institutions in the hope that his property deals would be completed. But the judge said the deals “could not in the end be completed because of the collapse of the property market in 2008”.

The judge went on, “The undertakings were called in by the lenders and at that point the absence of any funds to support them were discovered,” he told McClintock.

“Your house of cards had collapsed.”

McClintock had been disqualified as a company director and used Burns to fulfil roles on his behalf.

Mr Justice Weir told McClintock: “You, had everything to gain had not the tide of the recession gone out much further than your overweening optimism had allowed, leaving your business high and dry and without the monies needed to repay your lenders the amount due on foot of the fraudulent undertakings.”