'personal items' Catriona Carey: Money trail shows more than €200k of clients’ funds allegedly spent for personal use
More than €200,000 deposited by desperate homeowners to a business account controlled by Catriona Carey was allegedly spent on personal items and services, RTÉ Investigates reported tonight.
Over the two years, around €400,000 from clients of Careysfort Asset Estates was paid into the company account and as of last month, just €488.10 remained, with nothing left to repay any of those who gave deposits to Catriona Carey’s company.
The biggest spend using funds from the company account came on July 21, 2020, when money from the account was used to buy a BMW at a cost of €55,226.
Money in the account was used to fund a lavish lifestyle, including ski trips to Switzerland, a trip to Florida and multiple spending sprees at high-end boutiques and outlets.
Around 15 people have complained about Ms Carey to Gardaí after they handed over large sums of money to her company, Careysfort Asset Estates, after it said it would purchase their debt from lenders at a cheaper rate and thus sell them their house back with much lower mortgage repayments.
All that was required was a lump sum up front of between 10-30pc of the new loan amount.
Some handed over tens of thousands of euros and their debt is still in the hands of original lenders and has not been purchased by Careysfort Asset Estates.
Tonight’s documentary followed the money trail using documents received by RTÉ, including two years of bank statements from Careysfort Asset Estates Limited, where Catriona Carey is the sole director and owner.
The statements show how clients' deposits were used to fund everything from shopping at Lidl to trips to Switzerland and more.
In one 12-month period, over €380,000 was lodged to the account, the vast majority being deposits paid by clients to Careysfort Asset Estates Limited. And over €200,000 was spent on what appear to be items and services for personal use.
Monday’s documentary highlighted the plight of 18 people who paid close to €500,000, with some paying €60,000 each.
According to signed agreements, these deposits were refundable. But once they were paid, Catriona Carey strung people along for up to two years with broken promises.
She told clients she was dealing with their lenders to buy their mortgages but she wasn’t.
Sharon O’Riordan’s lender confirmed they had no dealings with Careysfort Asset Estates.
The mortgage on Phil Conway and Miriam Tormey's house was sold to an unrelated company.
"They're trying to ruin people who are doing their best to get on in life and they don't care. They targeted hard-working people, people that needed an out to get themselves back on the straight and narrow and they took advantage of that,” Miriam Tormey said.
When people realised they were defrauded, they asked Catriona Carey for their deposit back but people who requested it didn’t get it.
In November 2019, Sharon O’Riordan paid €5,000 as a deposit, adding that it was: “every penny that I had in my possession and more because I had to borrow it quickly from family members."
A month later in December, the bank statements show that the account for Careysfort Asset Estates was used to book a hotel at a Swiss ski resort for six nights. The cost per night was €1,176, and came to a total of €7,058.
Just days later it can be seen Miriam and Phil made the two transfers of €10,000 into the company account – Miriam, whose name wasn’t on the mortgage, had to borrow the money from the Credit Union.
"I never had a loan for that amount of money ever. I was fearful. I didn't know them but I trusted Phil in the hard work. I've seen the hard work Phil has put in to try and save this house,” Miriam said.
Two weeks after Miriam and Phil paid their deposit, the trip to the ski-resort in Switzerland began and the Careysfort Asset Estates account was used to fund spending throughout the six day trip on shops, restaurants and other items, amounting to €6,976.
The total spend was €14,000 excluding flights.
The day after the trip ended, a further €10,863 was spent. This was €8,000 at a Kilkenny-based Michael Lyng motor dealers, €2,080 at Welch Sports, which specialises in selling hockey gear, and €783 at Ez Living Furniture in Kilkenny.
Just weeks later, the account is used again to pay for another trip abroad, this time seven days in Florida.
The account shows related charges of over €22,000, including almost a thousand euro in one transaction at Armani Exchange.
Catriona Carey already has a conviction under the Theft and Fraud Offences Act, as she was convicted in February 2020 for the theft of €6,948 and for forging a cheque from a Kilkenny hairdresser who had hired her as his accountant.
She was given an eight month suspended prison sentence.
Catriona Carey repaid the exact sum via her solicitor ahead of the sentencing and the bank statement shows where the money came from.
It was sent from the company account. The account used by Catriona Carey to lodge money defrauded from her clients was also used to repay money she had stolen elsewhere.
James [not his real name], featured in Monday’s programme and described how he gave Carey €35,000 he gained through inheritance from his late father in an attempt to navigate a pathway out of debt.
He arranged to meet with Catriona Carey and secretly filmed the meeting.
James asks if things don’t work will he get his €35,000 back Catriona assures him her company is flush with cash.
"Please God everything does work out but if it didn’t for some reason the 35,000 deposit…is in our, we have funding, if you look at our UK accounts, if you want to be sure, because our company is in the UK.
"We put in a note in our accounts, they were just filed last week, we were held up with Covid to file them......and it said substantial funds in our client account,” Catriona Carey said.
After James paid his €35,000 deposit, the spending from the company account continued.
More than €3,500 was spent on December 4 alone on luxury goods and services, €859 was spent in Helen Turkington Interiors in Dublin, €359 on designer brand Escada and €1,627 in luxury clothing brand Moncler.
Catriona Carey declined to comment.
RTÉ Investigates - The Accountant, The Con and The Lies is available to watch on the RTÉ Player.
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