Relatives’ anger at ‘deceitful and greedy’ siblings jailed for faking their mum’s will
Fraudster pair fractured a once close family: judge
Relatives have spoken of their anger after a brother and sister who exploited their mother's death to fake her will and give themselves her business were jailed.
Elaine and David Lauro were handed prison sentences totalling 18-and-a-half months.
Elaine Lauro (43) was jailed for 11 months and David Lauro (50) was ordered to spend seven-and-a-half months behind bars.
Handing down the sentences yesterday, Craigavon Crown Court Judge Patrick Lynch QC told the pair that by forging a will, following the death of their mother Anne Lauro, they had "fractured" a once close family in an offence which "goes to the very fundamentals of family values".
The judge said he could not find any other case "that related to the fraudulent misuse of a will".
Mr Lauro, a scout leader from Hollybrook Grove in Newtownabbey, and his sister, from Lough Moss Park in Carryduff, pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation.
The charge said that on February 26, 2016, they claimed their deceased mother Anne Lauro "had signed an original will dated December 27, 2015".
Elaine Lauro, a mother of three, also confessed to a further offence of using a false instrument - a cheque for £167,000 - with intent to induce Santander bank to accept it as genuine on February 25, 2016.
The court heard that bequeathing herself a £154,000 property in Sligo - along with half of the family business of Kavanagh's jewellers in Belfast city centre - as the "prime mover" in the fraud, she stood to benefit by £328,000. Her brother, who also would have been handed half the business and a £31,000 property in Leitrim, would have received £38,000.
Outside court, their brother Mark Lauro, standing beside his sister Diane Aston, expressed anger at the pair's actions.
"As a result of David and Elaine Lauro's fraud we as siblings have been denied the truth of ever knowing what mum's final wishes actually were," he said.
"Their behaviour goes against what was our mum's right to have had her last will and testimony followed according to her wishes and her wishes alone.
"They have allowed their greed, lies and deceit to desecrate our late parents' good name. Their conduct cannot be condoned in our society and should never be acceptable.
"We are ashamed of their actions and are satisfied with today's outcome. We would like to thank our immediate family and friends for their support throughout."
When the prosecution case was opened earlier this week, the court heard that the fraudulent cheque, written by Elaine Lauro six days after her mum passed away from cancer, "would have cleared out" her account.
Prosecuting counsel Nicola Auret described how the defendants "called a family meeting" on February 28, 2016 when they showed their three siblings "a document they claimed was the will of their dead mother".
Ms Auret said the purported will set the defendants as both executors and witnesses and outlined there were properties and money to be divided among the five siblings, but "in particular it was stated that the deceased's business Kavanagh's jewellers, a long-standing operating business, was to be given to the two defendants". It also bequeathed to Elaine Lauro the property in Co Sligo and to David Lauro the property in Co Leitrim.
The lawyer told the court that eight months later, the PSNI received a report from Mark Lauro over "his suspicions that the signature on the will had been forged", so detectives seized the will along with other documents.
Ms Auret said after the documents had been given to a forensic handwriting expert, "he concluded the signatures on both the will and cheque were forged".
Defence counsel Patrick Taylor, acting on behalf of Mr Lauro, conceded the fraud represented "an egregious breach of trust" but that "I tentatively invite you to give some credence that there is a ring of truth to the assertion from the defendant that it was his mother's wish that he and Elaine receive the business".
Conor Lunney, defence counsel for Elaine Lauro, said the offences had caused an "irrevocable split" in the family and he sought to argue that given the "unusual background" to the case, it was an exceptional case despite the breach of trust and that she "was the prime mover in relation to both signatures".
Summing up the case yesterday, the judge said while a guilty plea usually indicates some degree of remorse, "it doesn't, in my view, in this case" as they had only confessed after their own handwriting expert opined the signatures were forged.
Describing the pair as "proven liars" who had lied to the police and repeated their lies in court, Judge Lynch said despite their claims it was Mrs Lauro's wish they would be given the business, "very little credence can be given to that proposition.".