Jail term for man who posed as a solicitor to fleece clients of £18k
A university law graduate who fraudulently posed as a solicitor and then swindled £18,500 from five clients has been jailed for 16 months at the Crown Court in Londonderry.
Kieran Healey (37) from Great James Street in the city, used the money to feed his gambling, drugs and alcohol addictions.
At one stage he gambled £500 each day on poker machines and also drank two bottles of vodka daily.
He pleaded guilty to five charges of fraud by falsely presenting himself as a solicitor.
He also pleaded guilty to one charge of possessing stamped court documents and court emails for use in a fraud.
Healey was caught after some of his victims became suspicious and reported their suspicions to the police.
Several were in court for his plea and sentence hearing before Judge Gemma Loughran.
A prosecution barrister said Healey's five victims had all gone to him for legal advice after they had each fallen into substantial debt.
One of them was a family friend. Healey told him he would require fees for his legal services and also to pay for the services of a barrister.
He told one of his victims that he specialised in insolvency and that he had "influence and a voice in the High Court".
Healey told another victim that he was engaged in the Historical Abuse Inquiry.
The prosecutor said Healey told one of his clients who had credit card debts totalling £20,000 that he had negotiated a settlement fee of £16,000.
The client then borrowed the £16,000 from his father.
"Not only was there a financial loss to these people, but also these people were in difficulties and they needed and paid for legal advice that they did not get," the prosecutor said.
Defence barrister Joel Lindsay said Healey's offending was both inexcusable and horrible.
He said Healey was a broken man who had a progressive downfall which included him living rough on the streets, alcohol, drugs and gambling addictions and nine incidents of self-harm.
He was also thrown out of the family home and disowned by his family after his offending was uncovered.
Judge Loughran said she found the contents of the five victim impact reports as "harrowing reading".
She said one of Healey's victims has lost his business, has had to sell his home and car and was unable to contribute to his daughter's wedding.
Another victim has suffered physically and mentally and stated "he has preyed on my vulnerability".
Before jailing Healey, Judge Loughran told some of his victims who were in court that she could only apologise to them for the High Court restrictions placed upon her in relation to the punishment she could impose on Healey.
She said Healey had engaged in serious deceptive behaviour with devastating consequences for his victims and in a manner which also undermined public confidence in the legal profession.