Solicitor who worked for Michael Lynn says law firm letters prompted first ‘alarm bells’
Posted on 30th March 2022 at 21:23
A solicitor who worked for Michael Lynn & Co Solicitors has told his multi-million-euro theft trial that “alarm bells rang” for her when she received two correspondences from two different firms representing two different banks in relation to the same properties.
Fiona McAleenan told Michael Lynn’s multimillion-euro theft trial that in August 2007 she got a fax from a firm of solicitors, who were representing a bank, referring to a number of properties.
She then got another letter or fax from another firm of solicitors acting for a different financial institution referring to the same properties.
Ms McAleenan agreed that this was the first time she became aware of the situation. “That was the first alarm bell for me, yes.”
She agreed with defence barrister, Paul Comiskey O’Keeffe BL, that she immediately sought the advice of a friend who recommended a solicitor and as a result of this advice, she then contacted the Law Society.
She accepted that the society asked her a number of questions on the assumption that there had been some genuine mistake or misunderstanding.
Ms McAleenan said the ultimate advice she received from the solicitor recommended to her, and possibly the Law Society, was to leave the practice immediately.
She agreed that she handed in her resignation and left on the same day and confirmed that day was September 10th, 2007.
Mr Lynn (53) is on trial accused of the theft of around €27 million from seven financial institutions.
Mr Lynn, of Millbrook Court, Red Cross, Co Wicklow, has pleaded not guilty to 21 counts of theft in Dublin between October 23, 2006 and April 20, 2007.
It is the prosecution case that Mr Lynn obtained multiple mortgages on the same properties in a situation where banks were unaware that other institutions were also providing finance.
The financial institutions involved are Bank of Ireland Mortgages Bank Ltd, Danske Bank, Irish Life and Permanent, Ulster Bank, ACC Bank PLC, Bank of Scotland Ireland Ltd, and Irish Nationwide Building Society (INBS).
Elizabeth Doyle, a legal executive who worked for Mr Lynn at the time, told the trial last week that she signed Ms McAleenan and Mr Lynn’s signatures on a number of documents. She said she was told to do this by Mr Lynn.
Ms Doyle told the trial she never discussed this with Ms McAleenan because Mr Lynn had said he would speak with Ms McAleenan about it.
Ms McAleenan told Mr Comiskey O’Keeffe on Wednesday that she signed undertakings in relation to various properties without having dealt with any of the conveyancing in relation to that property.
She said she was never involved in any conveyancing within the firm and confirmed that when she signed such undertakings, she was reliant on the other staff in the firm to ensure that the undertaking had been complied with.
She said at that time it was “a general accepted practice” that undertakings were signed by solicitors who had not carried out the conveyancing work. “It was not unusual at all,” Ms McAleenan stated.
Ms McAleenan agreed, when shown a copy of an undertaking from January 2006, that it was her signature on the document. The undertaking related to a property in the name Ms Doyle for which she applied for a mortgage with Permanent TSB.
Ms McAleenan said she was not aware of all the details in the undertaking and said when she signed it, she accepted that it was correct and trusted Ms Doyle in relation to that.
She agreed that the most serious document in a solicitor’s pack for a mortgage is the undertaking because if that it is dealt with incorrectly it may result in a solicitor being struck off.
“You should have appraised yourself of the situation in relation to this undertaking,” Mr Comiskey O’Keeffe suggested.
“I did not do so because I trusted Liz Doyle and Michael Lynn would comply with the undertaking. I didn’t act in such a way to preserve myself and I didn’t think I would have to,” Ms McAleenan said.
She said she signed the undertaking and didn’t have any further involvement with it.
She agreed that she signed a second undertaking again on behalf of Liz Doyle dated September 2007 after she identified her signature on the document.
“I can’t recall signing either of these undertakings or noticing the properties to which they related,” Ms McAleenan replied before she agreed she “would have asked questions” had she noticed the undertakings related to the same properties.
“I didn’t ask any questions, on the basis of trust and that I didn’t think that anything untoward was going on,” she said.
Ms McAleenan said Ms Doyle would often come into the office and stand to the side of her desk and present her with an undertaking to sign with the front page folded down. She said Ms Doyle would continue to chat to her and “flip the page” for any additional signatures.
Ms McAleenan agreed that she would sign as a witness to Mr Lynn’s signature without having witnessed his signature.
“It was brought to me and I took it and signed it. I took it that everything was in order. I trusted Michael Lynn and Liz Doyle that this was his signature. I accept now that I shouldn’t have. I accept now that I was wrong but I trusted them,” Ms McAleenan continued.
The trial continues before Judge Martin Nolan and a jury.
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