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Bag lady Fraudster lawyer Lyndsey Clarke still has designer tastes after five months behind bars

Legal eagle walks free from prison after serving five months for €470k scam

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Lyndsey Clarke with her Michael Kors handbag.

Lyndsey Clarke with her Michael Kors handbag.

Lyndsey Clarke with her Michael Kors handbag.

She was the high-flying legal eagle who rubbed shoulders with the cream of Ireland's politicians - pictured alongside Enda Kenny as he backed her bid for political office.

But, disgraced fraudster Lyndsey Clarke looked a shell of her former glamorous self as she emerged from a prison outlook programme in Dublin on Wednesday morning.

The only reminder of the former life she enjoyed as a successful solicitor and up-and-coming politician - a €250 Michael Kors designer tote-bag she clutched to her chest as she made her way through the gates of the facility.

However, Clarke (37) has much to be thankful for.

Just five months into her two-year-sentence for running an identity factory, alongside solicitor husband Keith Flynn, through which the couple fraudulently secured loans of €469,000, Clarke has traded the bars of Limerick Prison for relative freedom in Dublin.

And on Wednesday morning, the Sunday World was watching as she left the accommodation centre to take in the sights of Dublin.

But if she feels any gratitude for the clemency shown her as a result of Ireland's lax punishment of white-collar-criminals, she declined to share her thoughts on this with our reporter.

Approached later in the day, she had little to say of either her reprieve or her notoriety.

"Lyndsey, are you glad to be out of prison?" Our reporter asked - after he identified himself.

"Sorry, I'm not interested in saying anything at all," she responded.

"Would you like to say sorry?" Our reporter persisted - a question to which she gave no response.

"Do you think it's right you've been let out of prison so soon," our reporter tried a final time.

"Would you stop following me? I don't have anything to say. I really don't," she shot back before making her way back behind the unlocked gates.

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Patrick O’Connell confronts freed fraudster Lyndsey Clarke.

Patrick O’Connell confronts freed fraudster Lyndsey Clarke.

Patrick O’Connell confronts freed fraudster Lyndsey Clarke.

 

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Details of the complicated financial scam run by Clarke and husband Keith Flynn, and how simple spelling mistakes led to their undoing, emerged during their trial earlier this year.

The Cork-based couple had run what Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard was "an identity factory", through which they secured loans under false identities totalling €469,000, causing a loss to various financial institutions of more than €395,000.

As part of the scam, they created 60 false identities, donned disguises and paid homeless people for their PPS numbers in order to defraud banks and credit unions.

The pair pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud, arising out of a Garda investigation into the theft of funds from a number of banks and financial institutions over an 18-month period.

Detective Garda Alan McCarthy told the court that the pair created 80 fake accounts using 60 false identities in order to defraud Bank of Ireland, AIB, Ulster Bank, and a number of credit unions by obtaining personal bank loans dishonestly.

He said the criminal activity of the pair began in January 2017 when they started applying for personal bank loans using fake identities.

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Lyndsey Clarke out of prison and right with her fellow fraudster and husband Keith Flynn.

Lyndsey Clarke out of prison and right with her fellow fraudster and husband Keith Flynn.

Lyndsey Clarke out of prison and right with her fellow fraudster and husband Keith Flynn.

 

The couple, who got to know each other when Clarke went to work for Mr Flynn at his legal practice eight years ago, took out a number of loans in financial institutions using fake identities.

Prosecuting barrister Siobhan Lankford SC said the pair were in effect running an "identity factory."

Det Garda McCarthy said the couple applied for loans using fake driving licences obtained online, fake bank statements and fake payslips.

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Lyndsey Clarke with Enda Kenny.

Lyndsey Clarke with Enda Kenny.

Lyndsey Clarke with Enda Kenny.

They even paid members of the homeless community for their PPS numbers in order to use them in their criminal activity.

They used fake Virgin Media, Airtricity, and Electric Ireland bills and had 30 SIM cards with various contact numbers.

In September of 2017 the Financial Crime Unit in Bank of Ireland became suspicious of activities in six accounts and contacted gardaí.

The suspicions arose after a member of Bank of Ireland's group financial crime unit detected a spelling mistake common to a number of supporting financial documents across unconnected accounts.

The spelling mistake - 'Meet the teak', rather than 'Meet the team' - was on a fake, template phone bill the couple had downloaded from the internet. An investigation was subsequently launched and in July of 2018 a search was carried out at an apartment the pair lived in at Sunday's Well in Cork.

During the search, gardaí recovered laptops, wigs used for disguises when they went to banks and ATMs, and a locked safe.

Over €92,000 was recovered from the safe which was opened after Clarke and Flynn voluntarily handed over a key.

When gardaí opened the safe they found 21 fake Irish driving licences, 19 fake bank cards and 16 Credit Union books in different names.

Det Garda McCarthy said the duo had opened 19 fake accounts with Bank of Ireland in Cork and Dublin, 19 fake credit union accounts, 19 fake accounts with AIB and three fake accounts with Ulster Bank. Loans were approved with all these institutions.

They also had fake accounts with An Post, Permanent TSB and KBC but no loans were approved on those accounts, he added.

Det Garda McCarthy said the defendants co-operated fully upon their arrest. They made admissions of guilt in Garda interviews in August 2018, saying they were motivated by financial gain.

At no stage during the probe did Clarke attempt to blame her husband but instead insisted she was an equal participant in the scheme.

Despite this Flynn, who was last month was moved to Shelton Abbey Open Prison, received a four-year-jail sentence in contrast to a two-year-sentence for Clarke.

Sentencing Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said that to explain the difference in how the parties were treated at sentencing it could be stated that it allowed for the differences in the personal circumstances of the two accused.

In response to queries about Lyndsey Clarke's move to a non-custodial setting so early in her sentence, an Irish Prison Service spokesperson said:

"To enhance the rehabilitative opportunities for female offenders a new programme in partnership with the Probation Service, called the Outlook Programme, was opened in May 2019.

"The project is managed by Focus Ireland and the vision of the programme is to promote the rehabilitation and reintegration of women leaving prison and those who have accommodation needs requiring support in the community."

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