Almost a year after a Fivemiletown woman was jailed for defrauding her employers out of £1.9 million to fund her jet-set lifestyle, a Proceeds of Crime Application (POCA) has still not been dealt with.
However time has now run out after a prosecuting barrister effectively said enough is enough.
Julie McBrien (47) also known as Hogg, of Screeby Road carried out the vast fraud and money laundering enterprise, bringing her employers, Cookstown-based Northern Mouldings Limited to the brink of collapse.
She splashed the funds on her luxury lifestyle complete with a bespoke mansion, top-of-the range cars and expensive holidays.
In a disturbing twist, McBrien confided in a company director claiming to have cancer, securing time off to continue her opulent lifestyle without interference.
A defence request for certain details to be withheld from public disclosure was refused.
The case took almost six years to reach sentencing, throughout which McBrien was cloaked in anonymity having threatened to self-harm if identified. She extended this threat in an attempt to avoid prison, ultimately without success, and was jailed for five-and-a-half years.
She recently lost an application to appeal.
The POCA has been listed numerous times at Dungannon Crown Court without substantive movement. While this came into effect as soon as McBrien pleaded guilty it was postponed until sentencing was complete – which took almost two years.
At sentencing, a defence barrister stated: “The principal property is on the market”, but enquiries revealed this was untrue.
Prosecution counsel referenced this inconsistency at the most recent POCA hearing when it became clear no further delay would be tolerated.
The mansion is built on land “gifted” to McBrien by her parents, whose property is adjacent. They have now registered an interest on the property as has the mortgage company and McBrien’s estranged husband.
According to Land & Property Services the 461 metre square house is valued at an estimated £410,000.
McBrien’s counsel informed the court of an outstanding issue around valuation adding: “ I am informed it isn’t sold. The sooner we get resolution in around the registered interested parties, the sooner we can move on. I am advised the estranged husband is no longer part of these proceedings, nor are the parents.”
This was disputed by parents’ counsel who insisted they retain an interest: “The extent needs to be clarified. There are interests in the land and potentially the circumstances of the site gifted by the parents to build her house.”
Counsel for the mortgage company advised while repossession was considered, it was felt premature in light of the POCA proceedings adding, “We aren’t aware of any attempt by (McBrien) to sell the property. As she is in custody, it would be very difficult.”
Prosecution counsel pointed out the defence are seeking an up-to-date valuation “yet at sentencing the court was told the property was on the market”.
He enquired if the valuation was about to happen and why it wasn’t done before.
“The court has repeatedly asked for all material to be provided but that appears not to have happened,” he said.
“Where is this case heading? Given the timescales, something is going wrong.”
Judge Brian Sherrard replied: “This needs to be determined as a matter of urgency. It must be in a definite position to proceed.”
He ordered the interested parties to have their claims lodged by October 28, and ruled a full POCA hearing will take place in November.
McBrien’s criminality involved manoeuvring herself into fully controlling the company finances, creating false bank statements, forging a former employee’s signature, countersigning cheques to herself and generating fraudulent invoices.
When arrested, she admitted everything, claiming the money was spent on holidays and there was “nothing to show for it.”
While being interviewed, specialist police were searching her mansion and uncovered jewellery, designer clothes and other evidence of extravagance in the plush property.
A prosecution report found her to have: “The ability to manipulate for her own ends and all assessments are based on her own assertions.”
At sentencing Judge Sherrard told her: “You were given preferential treatment after claiming to have cancer. You authored that lie and benefited from it … You had no consideration for anyone affected by you. Your offending was borne out of avarice.”