Portglenone man, Kevin O’Kane, who duped 59 families into believing they were buying a “piece of paradise” has been remanded in custody.
Belfast Crown Court judge Mr Justice McLaughlin reserved sentencing of the 52-year-old until this week but said no matter what approach he took to the massive fraud case “a custodial sentence is inevitable”.
However, oil and coal merchant O’Kane, from the Ballynease Road, will have plenty to occupy him after the judge asked his victims consent to their victim impact statements being given to him so that he can get an insight into what this has done to people.
At the end of his trial last month, O’Kane was convicted of 25 charges of obtaining money and property by deception in relation to £500,000 he duped from seven investors.
In early January, the fraudster pleaded guilty to a further 126 counts of obtaining money or property by deception as well as two charges of fraud by false representation on various dates between 8 August 2005 and 13 April 2007.
Prosecuting QC Liam McCollum revealed that in total, there were 59 victims, many of them married couples or families and that the total money they lost was £3,983,735.
The judge revealed that one victim, who handed £75,000 to the conman, has been told by their bank that “literally they will be paying £600 a month for the next 17 years”.
The jury heard during the three month trial that the charges arose after O’Kane portrayed himself as the landowner, builder and developer of the Golden Beach villas development in the sunshine resort of Bodrum in Turkey.
Mr McCollum told the court that essentially what happened was that O’Kane and his business partner Kubila Atmaca spotted the villas for sale at a knockdown £45,000 so thought they could buy lots of them up and then sell them onto investors from Northern Ireland at a profit of £30,000 per villa.
The scam went wrong when they did not buy any of the properties with the money they had been given.
Mr McCollum said investigations into the whereabouts of the cash had only turned up £65,000 in one of O’Kane’s bank accounts.
He said the money may well have been
invested into another development, Ocean View, which has been frozen by Turkish authorities but that “it’s just disappeared”.
Defence QC Brian Kennedy claimed there had been a “falling out” between the actual landowner and Atmaca, leaving O’Kane as the fall guy back here, adding that he “foolishly trusted” his partner without conducting any checks into him.
Mr Justice McLaughlin said while he “wasn’t dealing with one of life’s great rogues,” he dismissed both those claims, telling Mr Kennedy that while there were people in the dark, O’Kane wasn’t one of them.
As well as numerous character references from a clergyman, a principal, local people and politicians, the lawyer handed in a letter written to the judge by O’Kane himself which he wanted read to the court.
The statement said: “It is with the deepest regret that I find myself here before you today and I find it hard to find the right words to express my sorrow.
“I have caused a lot of people stress and loss of their hard earned money and for that I am and always will be filled with remorse.
“I always tried to live a just and proper life treating others as I would like them to treat me and in that area I have failed.”
The statement continued: “I failed those involved, I failed my parents, my family, my friends and myself.
“So I now surrender myself to the mercy of the court in the knowledge that whatever punishment I am dealt will never diminish the huge weight I will carry around inside me for the rest of my life.”
As well as his own feelings of remorse and regret, his defence revealed that O’Kane had been physically attacked by masked men on two occasions.