Belfast Telegraph

Victims slam 'lenient' sentence after woman gets year for £125k con

By Paul Higgins

The devastated victims of a Dunmurry fraudster who swindled £125,000 from her friends and community in an illegal pyramid scheme have hit out after she was jailed for a year.

Lisa McIlroy (42) was sentenced at Craigavon Crown Court, where she was told she will also spend a further 12 months on licence after release.

Judges are bound by sentencing guidelines and must take into account mitigating circumstances, such as early guilty pleas, co-operation with police and remorse, as well as aggravating factors, such as intent and excessive violence.

But one woman who lost £13,000 to McIlroy said the fraudster should have been handed a stiffer sentence as she had left families with no money and, she claimed, "there's no remorse at all".

Another woman who lost £2,000 said: "It's not a bad bit of work getting a year for £125,000."

At an earlier hearing McIlroy, from Glengoland Park, pleaded guilty to 12 charges - five of fraud by false representation over the fake investment scheme and seven counts of cash theft, all committed between February 13, 2013 and February 2, 2014.

McIlroy defrauded her victims of £83,000, including £60,000 from one person.

The charges of theft amounted to £42,065, bringing the total to £125,065.

McIlroy told her unsuspecting victims - all close friends or people in her community - that she could invest their hard-earned cash "guaranteeing a return of £330 on every £1,000 invested every six months". She abused her position in the Andersonstown branch of the Bank of Ireland to lead the victims into the false belief she had access to special exchange rates and deals.

Opening the case last Friday, prosecuting lawyer Ian Tannahill told the court that, unusually, it was McIlroy herself who alerted police. But she portrayed herself as a victim by claiming that a man "had disappeared, leaving her with a personal loss of £16,000 and with substantial monies outstanding to a number of members of the public".

Police enquiries, however, could find no trace of the man, because he did not exist.

Instead "it became clear that the defendant was operating a 'Ponzi (pyramid) scheme'".

Speaking outside court, the woman who lost £13,000 to McIlroy revealed how she had even bought her a Christmas dinner in the false belief the fraudster had been duped by the non-existant conman.

"I feel really, really used and feel so dirty for someone to use you that way. I could've been doing with that money," she said.

"It's so hurtful to think that she had my money when I had nothing... she cleaned me out."

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