Posed as barrister to defraud his victim

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A Banbridge man who admitted posing as a barrister to defraud a vulnerable woman was remanded in custody last Wednesday.

Christopher McDonnell was warned by a Crown Court judge that he faces a custodial sentence after he pleaded guilty to eight offences committed last March.

He also denied a fraud charged linked to an “underhand payment to a judge”.

The 34-year old, from Limewood, appeared at Belfast Crown Court, where he admitted four counts of fraud by false representation, two counts of theft and two forgery charges.

The charges McDonnell admitted included dishonestly making a false representation, namely that he was a qualified barrister to make a gain for himself or cause a loss to a woman, stealing money from the same woman and claiming a document purporting to be a bank transfer represented money that the woman owed him for legal fees he paid on her behalf.

He also admitted forging a letter addressed to her from a recognised law firm as well as forging a court document which notified a change of solicitor.

While he entered guilty pleas to eight of the charges, McDonnell denied a further two charges of fraud by false representation. He denied telling the woman he needed £590 ‘to use as an underhand payment to a judge, and denied giving her payment instructions which he said were to “discharge legal fees”.

While seven of the charges relate to one woman, McDonnell, described as a trainee project manager, also admitted posing as a barrister to a second woman.

Revealing the amount of money involved is around £15,000, the Crown barrister said the women were “reasonably vulnerable victims because of their personal circumstances”. He handed a copy of McDonnell’s criminal record to Judge Patricia Smyth.

“I find it difficult to see how a non-custodial sentence can be imposed,” said the judge.