Four people handed over €3,000 deposit to secure same property, court is told
Posted on 22nd November 2021 at 21:13
Woman contacted gardaí about scam when asked for cash to secure the accommodation
A man who stole €12,000 though a rental scam has been remanded on bail pending sentence next February.
Anthony Byrne (40) had access to a property through his work with a contractor involved with renovating and repairing properties when he placed an advertisement for it on daft.ie. He used a fictitious name and doctored a contract he had previously received from a letting agency himself to use as a leasing agreement with the successful tenant.
The defendant of Miltown Meadows, Archerstown, Ashbourne, Co Meath, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to four charges of inducing another to pay him €3,000 by deception and use of a false instrument at Applewood Crescent, Swords, Co Dublin on dates between September 13 and 14, 2020. He has no previous convictions.
Detective Garda Conor Tumbleton told John Berry BL, prosecuting, that a woman replied to the advert and arranged to meet the defendant, who was posing as a letting agent called Stephen Cummings, at the property in question.
The woman’s suspicions were raised when he asked for the rent and deposit to be paid in cash to secure the property. She contacted the letting agency who Byrne claimed to be working for and they confirmed no Stephen Cummings worked there and advised the woman to contact gardaí.
Det Gda Tumbleton said four other people met Byrne and handed over the €3,000 he asked for to secure the property.
The first woman forwarded a copy of the rental agreement the defendant had sent her to gardaí. The letting agents were able to confirm it was a doctored contract and noted a particular formula on the contract had only been used once previously by them and that was with a lease agreement between the agency and Byrne.
A warrant was secured to search Byrne’s home and the doctored leasing agreement and a number of items linking him to the fake persona were found, Det Gda Tumbleton said.
On September 16, 2020, on foot of the first woman’s complaint, gardaí arrived at the property to investigate and found one of the victims there. She said she was waiting for a letting agent to collect the keys for the house having paid €3,000 in rent and a deposit two days previously.
Det Gda Tumbleton said the letting agents had been contacted by other victims looking to gain access to the property.
Byrne later made “forthright and immediate admissions”. He had paid for the advert using a prepaid Mastercard in the name of Stephen Cummings and had registered a prepaid mobile phone under the same name. He has since resigned from his job.
Byrne told gardaí his partner had recently lost her job because of Covid and he was on heavily reduced hours with work. He had asked his partner and their child to go away for a week and during that week he set out on the scheme to defraud others.
Det Gda Tumbleton agreed with Cathal McGreal BL, defending, that his client was completely honest about his involvement.
He said his client had no money available to compensate his victims, but has focused his attention on trying to secure employment. Counsel handed in a letter of remorse from Byrne.
Judge Melanie Greally remanded Byrne on continuing bail and adjourned the case to February 28th next. She ordered a report from the Probation Service for that date and said she would be “expecting progress on compensation” for the victims.
“He was undoubtedly going through a low point because of financial issues, but he has crossed a line. He duped and defrauded innocent people who were in similar circumstances to his own, earning low wages for long hours,” Judge Greally said.
She noted that Byrne has no previous convictions and has “never done anything like this before”, but also noted from victim impact statements before the court that his victims were “set back both financially and psychologically”.
A number of victim impact statements outlined how the various people were affected by the scam.
One woman, who had €3,000 stolen from her, said she had never previously suffered with her mental health, but she now sometimes cries for such a length of time that she struggles to breathe. She said she lost her job due to Covid and her mother had to take out a loan to cover the money that was stolen from her. She said she has never felt heartbreak like this before.
Another person said she is more suspicious of people in general. She lost all her savings when she handed over the €3,000 to Byrne and said it took her a long time to save up the money again.
A third woman, who also had €3,000 stolen from her, stated “it is hard to be able to put money aside at the end of the month. I don’t think it is fair to steal from others.”
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