Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland accountant stole £161,000 from dead soldier's trust fund

By Paul Higgins

A judge has warned an accountant-turned-fraudster who swindled more than £250,000 from three victims, including a dead former soldier's trust fund, that he faces a prison sentence.

Remanding 45-year-old David Flannigan into custody at Craigavon Crown Court, Judge Donna McColgan QC said she would sentence him next week, but that it was just a question of the length of the jail term.

Father-of-two Flannigan, from the Lurgan Road in Portadown, previously pleaded guilty to three counts of abusing the positions of trust he held with the RN Moore Will Trust, Orchard County Travel Ltd and Portadown Masonic Recreation Club on various dates between January 2010 and June 2014.

Prosecuting lawyer Nicola Auret revealed that Flannigan stole £161,370 from the RN Moore Will Trust, £66,800 from the Masonic Recreation club and £23,508 from the Richhill-based travel company.

He had also faced seven counts of using, possessing and transferring criminal property and his now estranged wife, 42-year-old Judy Flannigan, from Kernan Hill Manor, also in Portadown, had faced a single count of possessing £121,357 of criminal property but all of those offences were "left on the books" following his confessions of guilt.

She described how Raymond Moore, a former soldier, was working as a security contractor in Iraq when he was tragically killed by a bomb in September 2007 and that Flannigan "was appointed executor in the will and was the sole signatory" for a bank account and trust fund Mr Moore set up for his two children.

Rebecca Moore, Mr Moore's daughter, was approaching her 21st birthday, when she would be eligible to gain from the trust fund her father had set up, and she contacted her father's solicitors, who gave her Flannigan's contact details.

In September 2012 after £25k had been paid into the trust fund by an insurance company, Flannigan transferred £10,000 to Ms Moore.

Ms Auret said: "That's the only funds that any of the beneficiaries received from the total amount", as the remainder "was used by the defendant for his own purposes."

The prosecutor said that in his communication with Ms Moore, Flannigan continued to deliberately lie and obfuscate about getting money from her trust fund and even warning her of severe tax consequences if funds were moved early.

"This was clearly a fiction for the defendant to try to buy himself time to extricate himself from the situation," said the lawyer.

She told the court that such was the "pattern" of monies moving in and out of the trust account "the defendant was using the trust account as his own current account".

In relation to Orchard County Travel, Flannigan had a "managerial role" which gave him access to the company's bank accounts, while he was a treasurer for the Masonic recreation clubs.

Ms Auret added: "We say by his plea of guilty he accepts he was acting dishonestly.

"He admitted taking the money, but refused to accept he had benefited personally, but it is quite clear he did."

She added that his plea was one mitigating factor but that the scale of the fraud, the length of time over which they were committed and his position of trust for all three bodies were aggravating features.

Defence lawyer Charles MacCreanor said Flannigan had already paid a penalty in "an almighty fall from grace" as he has lost his marriage, his home and there was extreme unlikelihood of him ever getting another job in accountancy.

He said: "He knows he has caused harm to those who trusted him and he knows he must go to jail," adding that "will be the greatest shame on him and his family."

He revealed that Flannigan had gathered together £64,000 from pension funds to eventually pay back Mr Moore's children, but that he had "nothing more to give".

Judge McColgan said she would pass sentence on Monday.

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