Co Antrim international property fraudster Kevin O’Kane, who smashed 59 people’s dreams of owning a “piece of paradise” in Turkey, has been jailed for four-and-a-half years.
In all, the scam by the one-time oil and coal merchant from Ballynease Road in Portglenone duped investors of nearly £4m.
At Belfast Crown Court on Friday, judge Mr Justice McLaughlin told 53-year-old O’Kane that – while he could reconcile his claim that he never wanted to deprive his victims, nor leave them with nothing – he had nevertheless cost them dearly, leaving many also with feelings of self-doubt in falling for such a scam.
Last December, O’Kane was convicted of 25 charges of obtaining money and property by deception in relation to £500,000 he had taken from seven investors hoping to buy villas at the Golden Beach development at Bodrum in Turkey.
The fraudster has since pleaded guilty to a
further 128 counts of obtaining money or property by deception, as well as two charges of fraud by false representation on various dates between 08 August 2005 and 13 April 2007.
The court heard that his 59 victims, some of them family and friends of O’Kane, had lost a staggering £3,983,735 between them.
It was even revealed that one victim, who handed over £75,000, has been left with a monthly bank bill of £600 for the next 17 years.
His three-month trial heard the charges arose after O’Kane portrayed himself as the landowner, builder and developer of the Golden Beach villas development, while in truth, as one victim put it, he “didn’t even own a blade of grass”.
O’Kane and his business partner Kubila Atmaca spotted the villas for sale at a knockdown £45,000, so thought they could buy them up and then sell them onto unsuspecting investors at a profit of £30,000 per villa.
The scam went wrong, however, when they did not buy any of the properties with the money they had been given.
Investigations into the whereabouts of the cash only turned up £65,000 in one of O’Kane’s bank accounts, although some of it may well have been invested into another development – Ocean View – which has been frozen by Turkish authorities.
However, in essence, it appeared that the bulk of the £4m has “just disappeared”.
Detective Chief Inspector Kim McCauley, from PSNI’s Organised Crime Branch, said the sentence was the culmination of an almost five year complex, and professional investigation.
“The sentence reflects the magnitude of the loss suffered by so many innocent people who were taken in by O’Kane. It also emphasises the seriousness of fraud offences and reinforces the message that they are not victimless crimes.
“O’Kane’s actions have resulted in considerable hardship to a lot of families in a particularly difficult financial climate.”
DCI McCauley said the sentencing sends out “a clear message to fraudsters” that while it may take time to investigate complex cases, perpetrators will be caught and go before the courts.
“I would like to thank the victims for their patience in this instance,” she added.
“On a side issue I would also like to advise the public, if something seems too good to be true it usually is, please ensure you take appropriate advice before embarking on any financial agreement.”