Friday, November 25, 2022

Eimear Dodd

A former head of finance at Our Lady’s Hospice has been handed a prison sentence for his role in a “devious” scheme to sell a Spanish property left to the charity at a “grossly undervalued” price.

Denis Maguire (65) of Ballybrack Road, Glencullen, Co. Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to one count of deception, dishonestly inducing Our Lady’s Hospice (OLH) to sell a property at a loss on or around March 5th, 2015. Maguire has no previous convictions.

As part of his role, Maguire was responsible for managing properties left to OLH and their sale.

The property in question, 14 Aloha Lake Village, Marbella West, Spain was sold to a New York-registered company, Sun Orange Property LLC, in March 2015 for €37,500, even though the property was later valued at €240,000. Members of the board of OLH were told by Maguire that the property was dilapidated and not fit for sale.

Imposing sentence on Friday, Judge Martin Nolan said this was a “devious crime”.

Maguire had “breached the trust placed in him by the organisation”, Judge Nolan added.

Judge Nolan said it is “difficult” to know why Maguire got involved with this scheme, however, the court inferred that it was a “simple matter of greed”.

He said Maguire had involved himself in a scheme to sell the property left to OLH at “gross undervaluation”. He handed him a 27-month prison sentence.

Garda Marcus Regan told Aoife O’Leary BL, prosecuting, that 14 Aloha Village was left to OLH by Agnes Phelan of Co Wexford, who bought the house in December 2004 and used it as a holiday home during her retirement. Following her death in 2008, Ms Phelan left her Spanish assets to OLH.

Resolution drafted

Maguire was then the head of finance and company secretary of OLH. In August 2009, he asked OLH’s legal representatives to draft a resolution to allow him to manage and dispose of the Spanish property. This resolution was later passed by the board of OLH.

Maguire then granted power of attorney to a Spanish firm of solicitors to act in the inheritance process. He also travelled to Spain on several occasions to attend meetings.

OLH retained the property for six years. Over this period, the house was never valued or placed on the open market, though OLH discharged liabilities relating to it.

On July 9th, 2014, an offer to purchase the property for €37,500 was emailed directly to Maguire by a third party.

Maguire accepted this offer within 24 hours, without any due diligence, the court heard.

The third party subsequently transferred their interest to the New York-registered company, Sun Orange Property LLC, which is linked to another person who is before the courts.

Notice of the transfer of the purchaser’s interest was given to a Spanish solicitor, based in Maynooth, who was acting on behalf of OLH and Maguire in the sale.

The Spanish solicitor became concerned about the nature of the sale and indicated an investor was willing to purchase the property at a higher price. The solicitor’s concerns were not relayed to the board of OLH by Maguire.

The solicitor then insisted that a disclaimer document was signed. Maguire created a narrative that the property was a liability and dilapidated in order to get another board member to sign this document.

Sale completed

The sale of the property was completed in March 2015. Various liabilities including refuse charges, legal fees and capital gains tax were deducted from the sale price. OLH received a net amount of €27,061.41 by cheque.

However, OLH suffered a loss of over €28,000 as it had paid liabilities including for the upkeep of 14 Aloha Village. The house also was never recorded on an assets register.

The scheme was discovered after a HSE audit raised concerns in September 2015, seven months after the sale was completed.

Maguire was dismissed from his role in September 2016 following an internal disciplinary process and an independent investigation.

Two independent valuations of 14 Aloha Village were obtained as part of the independent investigation. These put the value of the property at over €240,000 when the purchase offer was accepted in July 2014 and at around €238,000 when the sale closed in March 2015.

An international property investor also said they sold two properties in the same development for €240,000 each during the same period.

OLH brought civil proceedings against Maguire in the High Court and a settlement of over €246,000 was paid by the accused, including €240,000 for the Spanish property,
Civil proceedings against other persons were discontinued.

Arrests

Maguire was initially arrested on October 1st, 2018, but nothing of value was obtained during this detention. He was arrested and charged on March 4th, 2022.

Sun Orange Property retain legal title to the property and it’s understood a tenant is renting the house.

Gda Regan said it appeared that Sun Orange Properties was a shell company used to hide the association between Maguire and another person.

Gda Regan told Patrick Gageby SC, defending, that he was not aware of how Maguire paid the civil settlement to OLH.

The investigating garda said it had been a complex investigation which had required assistance from authorities in the United States and Spain.

Mr Gageby handed in a number of references on behalf of Maguire from people who are “aware of this obnoxious offence” but still had “good things to say” about him.

His client is deeply ashamed and remorseful for his actions. Maguire has some medical issues and suffers from anxiety.

Mr Gageby said his client went into custody on October 17th last as a “token of his deep regret” for his actions.

His client had also faced negative publicity arising from this case, which has had an impact on his family.

Mr Gageby said his client had been of previous good character, but “due to his own actions, his reputation is in tatters”.

Financial losses

His client had also suffered a financial penalty and lost some pension payments.

Mr Gageby said his client had “taken the honourable and decent way forward” to acknowledge his wrongdoing.

Judge Nolan said there was “impressive” mitigation before the court.

He noted Maguire had entered an early guilty plea and cooperated with the investigation. He noted Maguire’s long work history and expressions of remorse.

He said he expected Maguire would be highly unlikely to re-offend on his release from prison.

Judge Nolan said Maguire’s actions were “very serious” as OLH is an organisation which has helped many families in Dublin and across Ireland.

Maguire had a “high level of culpability” for his actions, Judge Nolan said.

Judge Nolan said Maguire’s actions could have affected OLH’s reputation. However, reasonable people would know that one person’s “bad” actions would cause “no lasting damage” to OLH’s standing.

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