Belfast Telegraph

Woman guilty of £270,000 Spanish property swindle

BY JOHN CASSIDY

A Co Tyrone woman at the centre of an international property scam has pleaded guilty to stealing around £270,000 from investors.

Bernadette McGeary (55), of Carland Road, Dungannon, will be sentenced next month following her guilty pleas at Belfast Crown Court to theft and dishonesty charges relating to the purchase of holiday homes in Spain.

Her brother Stephen Peter McGeary (53), of Drumglass Way, and sister Catherine Mooney (52), of Edendork Road, both Dungannon, walked free from court after Judge David McFarland directed the jury to find them not guilty on a total of 11 charges.

A jury had been sworn in for the trial of the siblings and the court was told that the trial was expected to last up to six weeks.

Before the case was opened in front of the jury yesterday, prosecuting counsel Frank O'Donoghue QC told Belfast Recorder Judge McFarland that nine new counts had been added to the bill of indictment against Bernadette McGeary.

She had been due to stand trial on 27 charges which included obtaining a money transfer by deception, transferring criminal property, entering into an arrangement to acquire criminal property, obtaining property by deception, theft, using a false instrument with intent, fraud by false representation and removing criminal property.

McGeary stood in the dock as eight charges of theft and one of obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception were put to her. She answered "guilty'' to all counts.

Mr O'Donoghue said that the guilty pleas to the new charges were acceptable to the PPS.

He asked that the previous 27 charges she faced be "left on the books and not to be proceeded with without the leave of the Crown Court or the Court of Appeal''.

Defence counsel Gregg Berry QC asked for a pre-sentence report to be prepared along with a medical report.

Judge McFarland said he would sentence McGeary on April 11.

The Belfast Recorder told her: "You are released on continuing bail but do not take that as an indication of how the court will deal with you.''

BACKGROUND

Bernadette McGeary was accused of masterminding a fraud using money from people in Northern Ireland and Scotland for properties in Spain. Victims thought they were investing in properties, but the set-up was fraudulent and she took the money.

The case against her was dismissed two years ago, but the charges were reinstated and she pleaded guilty.

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