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Former financial advisor on national radio avoids jail for €109,000 fraud

CourtsBy Sunday World
Clare Dooley
Clare Dooley

A Meath insurance broker who carried out a €109,000 life insurance fraud has been ordered to perform 240 hours unpaid work in the community in addition to a four year suspended sentence.

Clare Dooley (43) committed the offences following a failed business venture in 2011. The former financial advisor later founded Drogheha-based company Moneybloom which offered to help restructure loans for those in mortgage distress.

Dooley of Hillcrest, Julianstown, Co Meath pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to ten counts of making and using false declaration forms at New Ireland Assurance plc, Dawson Street, Dublin and in the State between November 23, 2010 and September 27, 2011. She has no previous convictions.

She took out 38 fictitious policies in order to be paid commission totalling €109,000. The insurance company has since been repaid the money and nobody is at a loss.

Between 2001 and 2014 Dooley spoke regularly on NewsTalk on personal finance issues, advising callers on debt and other financial issues.

Judge Desmond Hogan had indicated last October that he would give Dooley a four year suspended sentence and order her to carry out community service should the Probation Service find her suitable.

He adjourned the finalisation of the sentence to today pending a probation report.

Judge Hogan retired last month and today Judge Martin Nolan received a favourable probation report.

He confirmed Judge Hogan's order, imposing a four year sentence which he suspended in full on condition that Dooley carry out the community service within 12 months.

He noted from Lorcan Staines BL, defending, that Dooley was awaiting a medical certificate to confirm that she was fit to carry out the work. The judge said if she was not medically fit the suspended sentence still stood.

Judge Hogan commented at the sentence hearing last October that Dooley's reputation had been “sullied to a considerable extent” and she was unlikely to come before the courts again.

He said there had been a breech of trust involving a large amount of money but there had been no loss involved.

Garda Niamh Seberry told Maddie Grant BL, prosecuting, that a complaint was made to gardaí in February 2013 by New Ireland Assurance regarding 38 fictitious life insurance policies that had been taken out by Dooley using false information.

Dooley had a financial services company and was working as an intermediary between clients and the insurance company. She sent in the application forms and received commission on the policies.

The company began an investigation in 2011 after noticing a huge rise in the commission paid to Dooley in a short period of time. Dooley had been paid €109,000 in commission from the 38 fake policies.

Dooley was arrested and interviewed after garda searches at her home and business unearthed relevant documentation. The people who were named in the polices were unaware they had been taken out and were not at a loss.

Mr Staines submitted that the motive had not been permanent theft of the money and that she would ultimately not have profited from the offences.

He outlined that the amount of commission paid to brokers like Dooley upfront was equal to two years monthly premium payments on the policy. If the policy was cancelled within two years there was a clawback of the commission payment from the broker.

Mr Staines said she set up the false policies and was paying the premiums to keep them live. He said although she had been paid the commission upfront, she would have had to keep paying the monthly premiums until they equalled the payment to avoid the claw back policy.

He said that Dooley had come to Dublin from Scotland in the 1990s where she did office work before moving into the financial industry. He said she had never been out of work since the age of 14.

He said she and her husband were in severe financial difficulties in 2011 following a failed business venture.

When heavily pregnant with her second child Dooley found herself the sole breadwinner after her husband fell into a depression. They were not entitled to social welfare as both were self employed.

Mr Staines handed in a psychological report and number of testimonials. The report outlined Dooley felt severe guilt and remorse for what she had done and that “pride” had prevented her asking for help.

He said the adverse publicity would make it difficult for her to find work in the financial sector.

Mr Staines said following previous reporting of the case there had been “pretty heavy comments” made by members of the public which wrongly inferred she had been stealing from those she had been seeking to help from which was not the case.

He asked the court to take into account her guilty pleas, the total destruction of her standing in the community and the effect on her family. He submitted that she had no previous convictions and evidence of overall good character.

By Conor Gallagher and Fiona Ferguson