O'Brien blew €1m of clients' money in two days
Businessman Breifne O'Brien, who used stolen money from a multi-million Ponzi scheme to pay for a home extension and a new car, is broke and living on €188 dole money every week.
O'Brien (52) appeared at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court yesterday after pleading guilty to 14 sample counts out of a total of 45 theft and deception charges at National Irish Bank and Ulster Bank, Donnybrook, Dublin, on dates between 2003 and 2008.
He convinced friends from his days in Trinity College Dublin and family business associates that he was linked to property schemes in Paris, Manchester and Hamburg and a shipping insurance scheme.
The schemes were all bogus. O'Brien of Kilmore, Monkstown Grove, Dublin, used fake letters and invented connections to international businessmen and lawyers to get the victims to continue to give him money.
O'Brien will be sentenced on October 8. Yesterday's case was adjourned so it can be established why O'Brien has not yet compensated any of his victims.
Lawyers for the fraudster said that O'Brien is now destitute and is living on social welfare of €188 a week.
Patrick McGrath SC, defending, said O'Brien was previously described as the "poster boy for the worst excesses of the Celtic Tiger", "Ireland's Bernie Madoff" and a "high society con man" is now shunned and socially ruined.
O'Brien told investors that the money would be left sitting in a deposit account in order to demonstrate that he had the financial clout to purchase investment properties and allow him to procure exclusive options on the properties. He told them he flipped these deals on for profit and split the proceeds with the investor.
Det Sgt Martin Griffin told the court that this was all a lie. The money was used for a myriad of other purposes instead of being held on deposit, he said.
Some of it would be used to pay back other investors. The detective said: "This is absolutely quintessentially characteristic of a Ponzi scheme".
Luán O Braonáin SC, prosecuting, told the court that the total loss to the five victims is €8.5m and that O'Brien's further amounts to other creditors.
He said so far €2m has been recovered through the release of assets but that none of this has gone to the victims.
Counsel for O'Brien said that €2.5m is available immediately for the victims from shares in a computer games company, property in Barbados and property syndicates in Boston and Berlin.
Judge Patricia Ryan said she wanted to know why this has not being released to the victims to date and adjourned the matter.
The first victim was Tipperary farmer Louis Dowley who was conned out of a total of €6.95m.
In July 2006 Mr Dowley lodged €1m into a bank account. Within two days O'Brien had transferred €19,000 to one of his companies, used €874,134 for stamp duty on a property in Cork city, €219,024 for purchase of another property and €61,000 for the purchase of an Audi Q7 car for his wife.
Det Sgt Griffin said: "Very quickly within two days the million euro is as good as gone".
The other victims named are Martin O'Brien of Naas, Co Kildare and Pat Doyle from Dublin who lost €500,000 each, Evan Newall also from Dublin who was deceived of €3m, and €450,000 from Daniel Maher of Foxrock, Co Dublin.