A greedy property speculator who masterminded a fraud against banks with the help of a disgraced solicitor has avoided a jail sentence.
At Belfast Crown Court, Judge Mr Justice Weir told Trevor McClintock that the "house of cards" he built on the back of defrauding banks had collapsed in the property crash of 2008.
McClintock (44), of Upper Malone Road, Belfast, had pleaded guilty to five counts of fraud by false representation against Barclays Bank and the Bank of Scotland on dates between July 2008 and April 2009.
McClintock had used a solicitor he knew from his church - Michael Robin Burns - to defraud the banks. McClintock had previously been disqualified as a company director and used Burns to fulfil roles on his behalf.
Burns became a director of a number of companies his co-defendant controlled under the name of The Wellington Group.
Burns gave false undertakings to the banks that if hundreds of thousands of pounds were lent to McClintock's company as bridging loans, the firm of solicitors he worked for had the available cash needed to guarantee the loans. In fact, the court was told, the Belfast solicitor's firm had no such funds.
In April Burns was given a two-year sentence, suspended for two years, after he pleaded guilty to nine counts of fraud by false representation.
Mr Justice Weir said Burns' actions were a last ditch effort "to buy time" for McClintock with lending institutions in the hope that his property deals would be completed. But the judge said the deals "could not in the end be completed because of the collapse of the property market in 2008".
"The undertakings were called in by the lenders and at that point the absence of any funds to support them were discovered," he told McClintock.
"Your house of cards had collapsed."
The judge said he had "tried and failed" to understand why Burns (50), of Skeagh Road, Dromara, Co Down, had given the undertakings in the first place, as he had "suffered grievously and permanently".
Mr Justice Weir told McClintock: "You, on the contrary, were the person who potentially had everything to gain had not the tide of the property recession gone out much further than your overweening optimism had allowed for, leaving your property business high and dry and without the monies needed to repay your lenders the amount due on foot of the fraudulent undertakings.''
An earlier hearing was told McClintock had settled all financial losses suffered but Mr Justice Weir said: "Your counsel Mr Webster QC, and I suspect you Mr McClintock, now both forget that your action in inducing Burns to give these undertakings was selfish and utterly careless of the certain catastrophic consequences for him if your deals did not complete as you hoped.
"Your erstwhile church friend and business associate has been left utterly destroyed."
The judge added that McClintock should reflect on what he had done to Burns and consider "what practical help you might offer him in his personal hour of need''. Referring to McClintock's initial police interviews, Mr Justice Weir said they were a "masterclass in obfuscation and dissimulation'' and he had put the blame on "Burns or anywhere else that you thought it might be disposed of".
As well as handing McClintock a concurrent three-year sentence, suspended for three years on each of the five charges, the judge also disqualified the defendant from being a company director for a period of three years.