A glass manufacturer who put profit before people’s lives by installing fake fire resistant glass was jailed for a year today.
The family of 58-year-old Seamus Laverty wept in the public gallery of Antrim Crown Court as Judge Desmond Marrinan told the fraudster that while he accepted he had been “under significant financial pressure ... it is inescapable that you must go into custody.”
“Fortunately no one was actually hurt as a result of what you did but the exposure of members of the public, including those at schools, churches and the like, putting the public at risk clearly demands and cries out for a custodial sentence, whatever the strength of the mitigating factors,” said the judge who ordered Laverty to spend a further 12 months on licence after his release.
At an earlier hearing Laverty, from the Deer Park Road in Toomebridge, pleaded guilty to 16 counts of committing fraud by falsely representing that Glassworks Ireland Ltd had installed fire resistant glass whereas ordinary, much cheaper, laminate glass had been installed with all the charges occurring in various dates between 1 January 2011 and 31 December 2012.
Outlining how the “sophisticated” frauds earned Laverty around £145,000, prosecuting lawyer Michael Chambers said unknowing victims of the crime included hospitals, primary schools, care homes and universities across NI, the Republic of Ireland and England as well.
The ‘top ten’ among the victims in the indictment and others “to be taken into consideration” and who believed they had been fitted with fire resistant glass are: National University of Ireland in Galway (Euro 51,500);
Scoil Oilibhein Noafa in Laytown (Euro 40,032);
Almac Labs in Craigavon (£22,433);
Strathearn School in east Belfast (£22,130);
Brooklands Care Home (£20,000);
St James’ House in Dublin (Euro 19,300);
Magherafelt High School (£17,574);
St Mary’s National School in Co. Meath (Euro 17,002);
Lisburn Road Methodist Church (£15,771);
Downpatrick Civic Centre (£14,980).
Other notable complainants are:
The Ulster Hospital (£4,500);
Tallaght Hospital in Dublin (£1,302);
Royal School Armagh (£1,350);
Carrick Primary School (£4,875);
Granville Manor Assisted Living residence (£7,637);
Templemore Avenue (£10,785);
The Design Centre Omagh (£13,317);
Manchester University (£11,940);
In addition the alleged frauds span the UK with other allegations relating to retail outlets such as Hamleys in Cardiff, KFC in Edinburgh, DW Sports in Leicester, Urban Retaik Outlet in Camden and another DW sports in Gainsborough also falling foul to the scam.
Jailing Laverty today Judge Marrinan said the case was “extremely concerning,” adding that while the financial loss to the victim and building contractors “is not an insignificant feature, it pales into insignificance when compared to the risk you were prepared to take...with the possibility of members of the public being injured or worse if this glass had been put to the test.
Detective Sergeant Colin Gray, from Reactive and Organised Crime Branch in Antrim, said: ““We estimate the total cost of this fraudulent activity to be in excess of £500,000, given the initial cost of the fake glass and the cost of replacing it. Glassworks Ireland bought laminate glass for between £8-£16 per sq metre and sold it for between £135-£240 psm. There was undoubtedly potential for substantial profits to be made.
“The financial victims were construction companies which bought glass in good faith and then had to replace it. But there were many more potential human victims who were exposed to unnecessary risk through no fault of their own, simply by being in buildings which did not have the appropriate fire safety glass installed.
“These included patients in hospitals, pupils in schools, residents in care homes and students at university as well as firefighters in the UK and Ireland who are provided with greater protection by the fire resistant qualities of genuine fire safety glass.
“This was a fraud designed to make large amounts of money but which put lives, many of them vulnerable lives, at risk. It was dangerous and absolutely reckless.”
PSNI acknowledged the assistance of a broad range of agencies which assisted during this protracted investigation and helped to reduce the risks posed by Laverty’s fraudulent activity. The organisations include An Garda Siochana, Dublin Fire Brigade, CGI International, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service and a range of other local authorities.