NewsCrime Desk

We snap traveller being hunted over €196,000 sting on farmer

Crime DeskBy Eamon Dillon
Hughie McGinley
Hughie McGinley

THIS IS the Irish traveller police want to quiz over a sinister blackmail campaign in the U.K.

A husband and wife, Dennis and Bianca McGinley, have already been convicted for their role in the scam, in which one Yorkshire farmer was forced to hand over €196,000 after being sucked into their web of lies.

Now his brother Hughie Patrick McGinley is fighting attempts by the U.K. authorities to extradite him back to face charges for his alleged part in the criminal operation.

This week the 32-year-old father of seven was granted bail at the High Court, despite evidence that he had skipped three times in the past.

He was not keen to speak to the Sunday World when our team spotted him.

It emerged at Teeside Crown Court in February this year that the blackmail victim had been subjected to a sustained campaign of bullying and fraud.

The conspiracy began in August 2010 when the victim was first approached by Dennis McGinley at his farm.

The man had previously been conned out of £110,000 in 2003 over the bogus sale of a mini-digger. McGinley told the farmer that he knew the men responsible and outlined a plan for the victim to get his money back, in return for a 30 per cent fee.

Shortly afterwards the gang began demanding cash from the terrified farmer, who handed over the money in nine different payments over 17 days.

He believed his own life was in danger and made trips all over the country to drop off the cash, as directed by Dennis McGinley.

The farmer resorted to borrowing money from friends and family and even sold his tractor to meet the demands of the gang.

Dennis McGinley told him he had information that could put the farmer in jail, pretending that the mini-digger money had been used for a “drugs run”.

At one handover, the farmer was threatened he was going to get a bullet in his head and “his life was not worth living”. On another occasion he was warned his “entire family” would be killed.

In one sinister call a voice on the phone said “he could make people disappear”.

The farmer eventually went to the police when his cash ran out, fearing for his safety if he failed to pay another £20,000 demand to the group.

Dennis McGinley and two other men were convicted in the U.K. and ordered to pay back £196,000 to the victim, as well as being sentenced to eight years in jail.

Dennis McGinley

Bianca McGinley had earlier pleaded guilty to possession of criminal property and received a six-month suspended sentence.

Bianca McGinley

Investigating police found CCTV footage of Bianca laden with designer-label shopping bags after a trip to Harrods with some of the proceeds.

Bernard McGinley (25), was jailed for four-and-a-half years, while Christy Stokes (44), got three years and nine months for their role in the fraud.

Bernard McGinley

Another man, Patrick Stokes, was arrested in Germany over the scam and extradited back to the U.K., where he received two years and four months. 

Patrick Stokes

It emerged that Dennis and Bianca had been involved in an even bigger scam in which they duped people out of £1.9 million over three years.

The biggest loser was another Yorkshire farmer, who handed over £1 million. Some of their ill-gotten gains were splashed on a Lamborghini.

Detectives explained in court that many of the victims were terrified of the gang, who gave the impression they were connected to Irish terror groups.

That time, Dennis McGinley was jailed for eight-and-a-half years and ordered to pay back £787,480.

Bianca was imprisoned for three-and-a-half years and ordered to pay a confiscation order in the sum of £29,315.

In that trial, it was heard McGinley claimed to represent a “three lettered organisation” from Northern Ireland.

This week Hughie Patrick, with an address at Collooney in Sligo, was granted bail, despite evidence that he previously failed to turn up for court hearings.

He was arrested in Sligo on  August 1, as gardaí executed a European Arrest Warrant issued in the U.K. stating he faces charges of blackmail, conspiracy to commit blackmail and possession of criminal materials.

McGinley’s wife Philomena gave evidence that he was a father-of-seven and they have a sick child who has down syndrome, sleep apnoea and a heart condition. Another child is due to have a hernia operation later this month.

She said her family hadn’t spoken to her since she married McGinley so she couldn’t rely on them to help her

Judge Aileen Donnelly said that while McGinley had a “somewhat a la carte attitude” to turning up to court, she would grant bail given his family situation.