An auctioneer, with an address at Grange, Bective, Navan, has been sentenced to two years and eight months in jail, with the final twenty months suspended, after he pleaded guilty to what Judge John Aylmer, considered a ‘ concerted system of fraud’, when the case was dealt with at Cavan District Court.
Thomas Smith took a number of deposits for house purchases from a variety of clients, some for properties that were not even for sale, from a variety of clients and held on to €35ks worth of them even when clients demanded them back.
In one case Smith took deposits of €5k from house hunters for the same property, not only was the house not for sale, but Smith didn’t hold a valid auctioneers licence at that time.
The Property Services Regulation Authority told Gardai that when his licence expired in 2012 he never applied to have it renewed and at the time of taking the deposits he was unlicensed.
Smith’s Counsel, John Peart, advised the court that his client, who was currently employed in construction would never work as an auctioneer again, but a PSRA representative informed the judge Smith had in fact applied for a licence again as recently as October 2020.
The case against Smith, over offences which mainly took place in 2014 and 2015, saw two books of evidence produced, over 30 witness statements taken and involved dozens of exhibits.
Mr Peart told the court that Smith now had all the money available to repay to the injured parties,
In sentencing Judge Aylmer said, ‘ One of the aggravating factors was that Smith had held himself out as a licensed auctioneer when he took the deposits,
‘The sums involved were fairly substantial and not such that the injured parties could afford to lose and therefore the offending was at the upper end of the scale before mitigation.
‘In that regard I accept that he has a prior good record, the probation services indicate he is at low risk of reoffending, he has expressed remorse and pleaded guilty very early on.’
In handing down a term of two years and eight months imprisonment the judge said, ‘It is too serious a case for me not to impose a custodial sentence’, before suspending the final twenty months for a two year period.
Legal aid was extended in the event of an appeal.