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Jail estate Fraudster's £1m mansion to be seized after Proceeds of Crime case launched

Conwoman McBrien faked cancer diagnosis and almost brought her employers to the verge of collapse

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The mansion in Fivemiletown, Co Tyrone

The mansion in Fivemiletown, Co Tyrone

The mansion in Fivemiletown, Co Tyrone

The luxury £1m home built by forgery fraudster Julie McBrien is set to be seized after a Proceeds of Crime case was launched by authorities .

Papers have been lodged to seize the stunning rural property on the Screeby Road, Fivemiletown, Co Tyrone, and a court date is imminent.

We can reveal the property was built to the particular specification of the 47-year-old conwoman.

Fittingly, when we called at the property this week the iron gates had been padlocked shut - something McBrien is used to herself now, having recently started her five-and-a-half-year prison sentence behind the bars of Hydebank Wood Prison in Belfast.

She'll serve half that time in jail and the rest out on licence, but by the time she leaves prison she'll have lost the stunning detached mansion she built for herself - despite desperate attempts to keep hold of it.

McBrien's fraud and money laundering activities, totalling £1.9 million, almost brought her employers, Northern Mouldings Limited, to the verge of collapse.

She controlled the financial records, artfully destroying all documentation on realising she had been discovered.

During her sentencing it emerged she spent £676,000 on property development and interior design.

We can reveal all of that money was spent on this one property. It went on buying the extensive land, believed to cover several acres, on building the huge mansion itself and then fitting it out with the best of the best.

She spent a fortune on architects to ensure her home was unique and included a state-of-the-art heating system, marble floors and top-of-the-range walk-in wardrobes.

Despite being unable to gain entry to the grounds we were able to get a glimpse of the luxury pad McBrien had built for herself off the backs of her work colleagues - some who had to be made redundant as the company downsized to cover their extraordinary losses caused solely by their sticky-fingered finance boss.

It's believed the house itself includes five luxury bedrooms in just over 450 square metres - and then outside there's a double garage as well as a specially-built and covered stone fire designed for entertaining in the summer.

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There's an upstairs balcony which is accessed by the master bedroom where McBrien apparently enjoyed breakfast during warm summer mornings.

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Julie McBrien in Dubai

Julie McBrien in Dubai

Julie McBrien in Dubai

The extensive gardens are carefully maintained and manicured with various sections, all carefully designed by expensive landscapers.

It's no wonder McBrien fought to cling on to the property.

Despite pleading guilty more than two years ago, McBrien stalled the legal process until recently when she was finally jailed.

Sources say McBrien insisted she was "not going back to court" after it became clear the multiple reports obtained by her lawyers weren't going to keep her out of jail.

And we can reveal the remorseless thief - who had the cheek to blame the company's accountants for not keeping a closer eye - even lied after pleading guilty.

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She told the court she had put the house up for sale with the aim of paying back her employers, but it was yet another lie.

Dungannon Crown Court was informed three months ago that while no funds had been repaid by McBrien, the "principal property" is on the market.

But there was no record of this and now with McBrien finally banged up behind bars the courts have stepped in to take control of the house.

Sources say the entire property and all the furnishings will be applied for under Proceeds of Crime.

"So much of what's in that house was bought with money Julie McBrien stole from her employers," said one insider.

"When they get into that house they will discover just how she lived and how they may be able to seize the whole lot."

Over eight years McBrien committed between 500 and 600 individual criminal transactions, through unauthorised withdrawals, electronic transfers, fraudulent bank statements and forging signatures.

The siphoned funds sustained McBrien's opulent lifestyle in her lavish mansion, with £501,000 deemed lifestyle and general spend, £676,000 on property development and interior design, £231,000 on fashion and beauty and £145,000 on jewellery.

She provided false bank statements to the company board, with fictitious figures, and forged a former employee's signature on cheques to herself while he lay in hospital after a serious road traffic accident in England.

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She knew a close relative of the company director had suffered a rare form of cancer, and "confided" in him that she had the same condition, affording her preferential treatment and time off.

But there was no cancer and McBrien deployed the tactic to maintain her luxury lifestyle without interference. She was pictured on holidays in Dubai and wearing designer clothes at family weddings.

The court heard from a psychiatric expert retained by the defence, who contended McBrien was suffering from Martyr Syndrome and should be sent to hospital as opposed to prison.

Throughout the six-year duration of the case, press were banned from naming her because she had threatened to self-harm if identified. She threatened the same if she was jailed but a judge overturned the anonymity order.

The company she robbed said outside court it would continue to pursue legal actions to retrieve the funds. That process will get a boost when the house Julie built 'appears' before court in the next couple of weeks.

steven.moore@sundayworld.com

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