Dungannon woman pleads guilty to stealing £270k in property scam

Bernadette McGeary. INTT3712-063X
Bernadette McGeary. INTT3712-063X

A Dungannon woman at the centre of an international property scam has pleaded guilty today (Thursday) to stealing around £270,000 from investors.

Bernadette McGeary (55) of Carland Road, will be sentenced next month following her guilty pleas at Belfast Crown Court to theft and dishonesty charges relating to the purchase of holiday homes in Spain.

Her brother Stephen Peter McGeary (53) of Drumglass Way, and sister Catherine Mooney (52) of Edendork Road, both Dungannon, walked free from court after Judge David McFarland directed the jury to find them not guilty on a total of 11 charges.

A jury had been sworn in yesterday (Wednesday) for the trial of the siblings and the court was told that the trial was expected to last up to six weeks.

Before the case was opened in front of the jury today (Thursday), prosecuting counsel Frank O’Donoghue QC told Belfast Recorder Judge McFarland that nine new counts had been added to the bill of indictment against Bernadette McGeary.

She had been due to stand trial on 27 charges which included obtaining a money transfer by deception, transferring criminal property, entering into an arrangement to acquire criminal property, obtaining property by deception, theft, using a false instrument with intent, fraud by false representation and removing criminal property.

However, Mr O’Donoghue told the trial judge: “In the view of the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) the nine new counts are acceptable and reflect the criminal responsibility of Bernadette McGeary.

“I would ask that she be re-arraigned on these new counts.’’

McGeary stood in the dock flanked by two prison officers as eight charges of theft and one of obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception were put her.

She answered “guilty” to all nine counts.

Mr O’Donoghue said that the guilty pleas to the new charges were acceptable to the PPS.

He asked that the previous 27 charges she faced be “left on the books and not to be proceeded with without the leave of the Crown Court or the Court of Appeal’’.

Defence counsel Gregg Berry QC asked for a pre-sentence report to be prepared along with a medical report.

He asked that McGeary be released on continuing bail.

Judge McFarland said that he would sentence McGeary on Friday, April 11.

The Belfast Recorder told McGeary: “You are released on continuing bail but do not take that as an indication of how the court will deal with you.’’

The jury of seven women and five men returned to the court and were told by the trial judge that there had been “major developments” in the case overnight and that Bernadette McGeary had now pleaded guilty.

“As a result of Bernadette Geary’s guilty pleas, the prosecution are not going to offer any evidence against her brother and sister. That’s the end of the trial.”

Civil servant Stephen Peter McGeary had been accused of a total of eight counts which included entering into an arrangement to acquire property, using criminal property, possession of criminal property and transferring criminal property.

Catherine Mooney, who is also a civil servant, had been accused of entering into an arrangement to acquire criminal property, possession of criminal property and using criminal property.

Both had denied all the charges.

The pair stood in the dock as prosecuting counsel Frank O’Donoghue told Judge McFarland: “I have consulted with the PPS and in the light of Bernadette McGeary’s guilty pleas, it is not now intended by the PPS to offer any evidence in this trial against these two defendants.’’

As a result, Judge McFarland directed the jury to find the brother and sister not guilty on all 11 charges.

“The defendants are now free to go,” added the trial judge.