A former bank manager, an ex-solicitor and a former financial adviser have been jailed for their roles in widespread financial fraud linked to bogus loans and mortgages.
The multi-million pound scam was carried out over a period spanning from 2002 to 2008, at the height of the property boom.
The aim of the scheme was to cash in on the boom in the hope that, with easy profits, the loans would be repaid without the bank discovering they were fraudulent.
Disgraced former bank manager Peter Creegan (47), who used his position in the Newry branch of the First Trust Bank to commit the offences, was described in court as the "prime mover" and was handed a three-year prison sentence.
The father-of-four will spend two years in custody followed by a 12-month period of post-custodial supervision.
His co-accused – Peter Brassil (51), from Chancellor's Road, Newry, and father-of-five Damian Pius Mallon (56), from Drumconwell Road, Armagh – will both spend a year in custody. When released, Brassil will spend a further 12 months on post-custodial supervision.
Jailing Creegan, Mr Justice Burgess said: "He sat at the centre of this web of deceit, given his indispensable power to process the loans and to obtain the necessary approval.
"He was in control from beginning to end."
Creegan, a father-of-three from Newry's Liska Manor, admitted 18 offences which included fraud by false represent-ation, seven counts of theft, and two counts of fraud by abuse of position.
Newry Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, heard that Creegan was involved in six loans and a number of fraudulent mortgage applications amounting to £3.34m, with an estimated loss of between £1.34m and £1.14m.
Mr Justice Burgess said Creegan's offending was motivated by greed and highlighted the amount of money involved, and the breach of trust.
Brassil pleaded guilty to nine offences including entering an arrangement to acquire criminal property, false accounting, three counts of theft, and fraud by false representation.
The former solicitor – who at the time of the offending was addicted to cocaine – is a former partner in Tiernan's solicitor's practice in Newry. He was involved in six loans amounting to £3.07m, which resulted in an estimated loss of between £1.35m and £1.42m.
He was also involved in the theft of £28,500 from client funds.
Mr Justice Burgess said Brassil was involved in two separate aspects of dishonestly – his involvement in Creegan's schemes and stealing from his clients.
Mallon pleaded guilty to seven charges including two counts of theft, concealing criminal property, and two counts of transferring criminal property.
The former financial adviser's offending involved money laundering and submitting false information on a mortgage application.
He was involved in three loans amounting to £386,000 – one in 2006 and two in 2008.