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Monday, August 15, 2022

Catriona Carey claims ‘I’m just the fall guy’ as she blames mortgage scam on ‘associate’

Catriona Carey, in her first interview, blames an ‘associate’ for orchestrating the €800,000 ‘Careysfort Asset Estates’ mortgage scam – claiming she has evidence of this and will provide it to gardaí.

ow branding herself as ‘the fall guy’ in the con, first exposed by RTÉ last February, Carey nevertheless admits she spent tens of thousands of clients’ deposits on personal items, including trips abroad and a €55,000 BMW.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday World, Carey, a one-time golden girl of Irish hockey and sister of Kilkenny hurling legend DJ Carey, claims:

  • The €400,000 in client funds once held by Careysfort Asset Estates is now “gone and not recoverable”;
  • She believed an associate she describes as the ‘ringleader’ was purchasing her clients’ debts from the banks and that the contracts ‘were good’;
  • The associate – who is not related to Carey – raised an additional €400,000 in cash payments from the scam – bringing to €800,000 the total amount involved;
  • She believed “we had enough money to refund everybody if everything had gone wrong”;
  • She says she is ‘happy’ to be under Garda investigation and has ‘nothing to hide’”

In February, Carey, a convicted fraudster, was accused of scamming up to 30 people out of thousands of euros after offering to buy debt from their mortgage lenders at a discount.

It was revealed how more than €200,000 deposited by desperate homeowners into a business account controlled by Carey was allegedly spent on personal items and services.

In a lengthy interview this week, Carey told the Sunday World: “I’m sorry for the role I’ve played in this but I need them (the clients) to understand I was being deceived also. The person behind all of this has been given a free role to live their life and they have not been exposed the way I have been exposed.

“And I am not going to let that person destroy other people’s lives. That’s the reason I am giving this interview.”

Speaking of an ongoing investigation by the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau involving complaints of fraud against her from more than 20 former clients, Carey said: “I’m quite happy to be under investigation.

“I haven’t been spoken with (interviewed) yet. But my home was searched.

“The Gardaí took receipts, my laptop, some personal jewellery, they took my purse and my passport and my children’s passports – because someone told them I was a flight risk.

“I’m quite happy to face what I have to face …

“This was portrayed in the media that I had run away and that I was in hiding.

“I phoned the Garda after they raided my home and said: ‘Here is my number and my email. I am very happy to deal with you on anything you need. I will deal with you on everything.’

“I gave them passwords to everything.

“I was happy to co-operate. I don’t know why I wouldn’t for my own sake. I have nothing to hide in what I’ve done. I have to date given (my associate) over €100,000 in assets to solve my own debt resolutions issues.

“I have wasted two-and-a-half years corresponding with a man who was deceiving me from the very beginning.

“I had no reason to set this business up to destroy people’s lives. None whatsoever.

“Hopefully, everybody that was involved in this pays the price – including myself. If I deserve to pay a penalty for this, I will absolutely take that on the chin.

“I came into this with the best of intentions, to make some money and solve my own debt issues, solve other people’s debt issues. We were going to have a great future.”

Carey has told the Sunday World the name of the man, she alleges was the ringleader in the scam – claiming hundreds of messages on her phone and documents on her laptops will prove that she is not lying about his involvement or that of a second man she describes as her associate’s ‘solicitor’.

However, as the devices are currently in the hands of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau, where investigators are probing complaints from between 20 and 30 people who dealt with Carey, this claim cannot be verified.

Asked to explain how she and a company she says she ‘set up with the best of intentions’ came to lie at the centre of the notorious property scam, Carey said she is not denying her own role in what happened but disputes the level of responsibility being placed on her.

Asked if she claimed to be a ‘fall guy’ she said: “Yes, 100 per cent.

“I had a role in this, in that I fronted what I thought to be a legitimate business. I set it up in my family’s name and I was the director.”

But she is adamant it was this ‘associate’ who “was the person getting deals through the banks.

“He had the contacts with the banks, he had the solicitor who was his friend for 30 years, he had contacts.

“He knew judges, he knew guards and he came across as a very legitimate person.”

She continues: “The initial set-up of this company was for property transactions. Then I met (my associate) in 2019 and he offered the ability to buy debt, toxic debt properties from banks.

“I initially asked him to work on some properties of my own that were in debt.

“With that, I introduced him to some people I knew, that trusted me, to help resolve their debt issues, all property related.

“Not all were family homes – some were businesses, some were commercial entities and some were residential. On my books, I have 27 clients, not 60 or 100, 27!”

Asked what checks she did on this associate before going into business with him, Carey responded: “I didn’t. I trusted his word to be true.

“He gave me a list of assets he owned and I was happy to see he had quite an established amount.”

Asked if she had checked the ownership of those assets on the land registry, Carey again responds that she did not.

“No, I didn’t. We just went full throttle into doing the work … not believing that anyone would go to this extent to take money from people.

“That was late 2019, 2020. That’s when we started taking money from people to buy back assets.”

Asked how much she and her associate had taken in over the two years, Carey responded: “I took in €400,000 in the bank and he took in similar in cash.

“He insisted on cash. I wasn’t comfortable with that but he insisted that was how they had to pay his.”

Carey, a former hockey international who also played camogie for Kilkenny, was convicted of fraud in February 2020 after altering a cheque she received from a client who had hired her as his accountant.

She changed a cheque for €6,948 which had been made out to the Revenue’s Collector General, instead making it payable to herself, and cashed it at a bank in Kilkenny. Carey received an eight-month suspended sentence.

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