Conman Eric Boyd who duped 17 clients out of £480k in holiday home scam sentenced to two years
A property investor who turned his clients' dreams into nightmares has been jailed for two years – a sentence one of his victims slammed as "slap on the wrist".
The 17 unwitting clients of Eric James Boyd invested nearly half a million pounds in holiday homes in Spain – but it was all for nothing.
Prosecution lawyer Simon Reid said that instead of investing money given to him, it instead went to clear Boyd's debts.
Mr Reid said Boyd's victims were not large institutions, but vulnerable individuals who had lost significant amounts of money.
Boyd managed to swindle £480,000 out of his victims – including a minister – by encouraging them to invest in Spanish properties just as the recession was starting to take effect in 2007.
But the money went into the 45-year-old Fermanagh man's efforts to keep his ailing business afloat.
"He was a very religious man. It breaks your trust, it breaks your faith in people who are religious," said William McElwaine, who lost money.
"Can you trust somebody who would sit down and say a prayer with you, sing a hymn with you, can you trust them any more?"
He described the sentence as a "slap on the wrist", while Ken Loughrin, who lost £200,000 said it was "too lenient".
"I thought today, Eric Boyd would have come up with something at this stage, at this very late stage when he was facing a prison sentence," he said.
"But, unfortunately, he hasn't come up with anything, so I just don't know what the future holds."
Ken Hamilton, who is owed £10,000, knew Boyd for more than two decades, but said he had been left with "nothing, only promises and a lot of lies".
Sentencing Boyd at Omagh Crown Court, Judge Melody Reynolds noted the fraudster's ill-fated company's name, Dream Spanish Properties.
The judge told Boyd – originally from Brookeborough in Fermanagh, but now with an address at Crievehill Road, Fivemiletown, Co Tyrone – that his victims' dreams had been "turned into nightmares".
Judge Reynolds said Boyd had exploited his network of contacts, including people he knew in church, from school and through his hobbies.
"It would appear your major working capital was your sales skills in combination with the decent reputation built by your family over the years," she said.
"These people were advised that you had invested the money on their behalf but it appears on analysis of your bank accounts the money was lodged with you, but there is no evidence of it being invested anywhere."
Defence QC Eugene Grant told the court that despite Boyd's extensive experience in the property market, he had unwittingly believed his business could survive the economic recession.
He claimed that the property man's failings were not a scam, but as the result of the economic crash.
However, it was also accepted that this was essentially a case of "robbing Peter to pay Paul".
"He thought that with his contacts, history and knowledge of finance he could have turned things around," Mr Grant told the court.
"Unfortunately this was a misplaced hope of recovery. He had put enormous hope in what turned out to be the end of the rainbow."
Boyd will serve two years in custody, to be followed by two years on licence.