Siblings who split cash and Belfast jewellery business by forging mum's will jailed in Northern Ireland first
Jailed Siblings 'allowed greed, lies and deceit' to desecrate parents' good name, family says
A brother and sister who exploited their mother’s death to fake her will have been jailed for a total of 18-and-a-half months.
Jailing Elaine Lauro (43) for 11 months and ordering her brother David Lauro (50) to spend seven-and-a-half months behind bars, Judge Patrick Lynch QC told the pair at Craigavon Crown Court 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".
“That cannot be ignored,” declared the judge, adding that he could not find any other case that related to the fraudulent misuse of a will in Northern Ireland.
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. On February, 26, 2016, they told their siblings their deceased mother Anne Lauro “had signed an original will dated December 27, 2015".
Mother-of-three Elaine Lauro also confessed to a further offence of using a false instrument, namely a cheque for £167,000, with intent to induce Santander to accept it as genuine, on February 25.
The court heard that bequeathing herself a £154,000 property in Sligo, along with half of the long standing family business of Kavanagh’s jewellers in Belfast city centre, as the “prime mover” in the fraud, she stood to benefit by £328,000 while her brother, who also would’ve been handed half the business and a £31,000 property in Leitrim, would have received £38,000.
Outside the court, their brother Mark Lauro, standing beside his sister Diane Aston, said: “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.
"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.”
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 which 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 a property in Co Sligo valued at £154,000 and to David Lauro, a property in Co Leitrim valued at £31,000.
The lawyer told the court that eight months later, the PSNI received a report from Mark Lauro that he suspected the signature on the will had been forged. Detectives then seized the will along with other documents.
A forensic hand writing expert concluded the signatures on both the will and the cheque were forged.
When questioned by police the pair denied any fraud had taken place.
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".
Judge Lynch said during the case, that the crimes “strikes at the very heart and foundation of decent family values".
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 hand writing expert opined the signatures were forged.
“Your attitude doesn’t indicate any remorse whatsoever,” said the judge.
Describing the pair as “proven liars” who had lied to the police and repeated their lies throughout court proceedings, 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.”
“One simply cannot say what the true wishes of this lady would have been,” the judge told the court.
The bitterness that you generated by virtue of your actions will not be determined at the end of the case. Judge Lynch
He said while there were mitigating factors for both defendants given their clear records and eventual guilty pleas, the guidelines were clear that in all but exceptional cases, “custodial sentences will almost be inevitable to mark publicly the gravity of the offence".
“There is an expectation on the part of any person who is terminally ill” that their dying wishes will be respected and carried out but by forging her will, the defendants “took advantage” of their mother’s death, said the judge.
The judge told Elaine Lauro while there was “profound regret” she would have to be jailed, he added it was “hard to avoid the proposition” she had brought it upon herself.
He told the brother and sister it was clear the family fall out from the fraud “is likely to continue to the next generation...the bitterness that you generated by virtue of your actions will not be determined at the end of the case.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital