Solicitor admits defrauding bank of £400k

David Annett
David Annett

A solicitor working at a Portadown legal firm defrauded a bank of £400,000 to help buy a partnership in a legal practice and an apartment in England, a court has heard.

David Annett (38), of Church Road, Dromara, pleaded guilty at Craigavon Crown Court to four charges which spanned a five-year period.

The father-of-three admitted defrauding the First Trust Bank, two counts of theft and transferring over £110,000 of criminal property out of his employer’s business account.

Nicola Auret, prosecuting, told Judge Patrick Lynch QC that the offences came to light in August 2012 when Annett walked into Lurgan police station with his solicitor John McBurney ,“which was not pre-arranged’’, and told officers he was involved in conveyancing work.

As a result of what he told police at interview, a criminal and financial investigation was launched by the PSNI.

She told the court that in 2007 while working for Portadown-based J P Hagan Solicitors he was “approached by a senior partner who asked him if he wanted to become a partner in the firm”.

“The offer came at a cost – the cost was £250,000. The defendant remortgaged his home at Church Road with First Trust Bank/Allied Irish Bank.”

In December 2007, the First Trust Bank received his application for a £400,000 remortgage, which was the value of his home, and was signed by the defendant and his wife.

The couple, the court heard, already had an existing mortgage with UCB Home Loans, a branch of the Nationwide Building Society, which totalled £220,000.

Ms Aurett said that another solicitor in the practice signed the mortgage applications to say that he was doing the conveyancing on the property when in fact Annett was doing the conveyancing.

Annett also applied for a further unsecured loan of £80,000.

Judge Lynch QC was told that by agreeing to the remortgage and by releasing the funds, the First Trust Bank believed “they would be the first charge on the property”.

In February 2008, the funds were released to JP Hagan’s solicitors with the monies to be used to settle the UCB Home Loan mortgage and to “pay the £250,000 to take up the partnership in his firm”.

However, said Ms Auret, the UCB Home Loan mortgage “was not discharged” and “the defendant accessed the business account and transferred the entire amount of monies into his personal account”.

“The result was the charge that was put on the property from First Trust Bank was a secondary charge and it was worthless.”

The judge heard that in March 2008 Annett moved £112,000 out of the law firm’s business account to “buy himself an investment property in Corby, England”.

The prosecutor said the £400,000 Church Road property was subsequently repossessed and was sold at auction for £92,000.

She said it was bought by Annett’s brother, and the accused was currently a tenant in the property with his family.

Annett, a QUB law graduate, told police that his “finances were so bad that he needed the money to see his family through everyday expenses”.

He was released on continuing bail until sentence is passed on May 6.