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Doctors on trial over mortgage fraud

 Published on: 20th September 2018   |   By: Jason Allen   |   Category: Uncategorized

A woman mortgage advisor told a jury she had been “flattered” by the attention shown to her by a surgeon she was helping with a mortgage application.

Natasha Saunders agreed in court that Dr Anthony McGrath could come across as “charming, confident and self-assured” and appear very friendly.

But she said: “One is flattered when one gets a compliment but it doesn’t go any further than that.”

Earlier Luton Crown Court heard the surgeon had, during his dealings with the Lloyds Bank mortgage advisor, sent her a text saying “You are looking very well, young lady.”

She was giving evidence at Luton crown court where Dr McGrath and his wife Anne from Clarence Road in St Albans are both on trial denying charges of mortgage fraud.

The surgeon also pleads not guilty to make a bogus insurance claim for £180,000 after its alleged he made a false report to the police that his home had been burgled.

Mrs Saunders said after receiving the text from the doctor about “looking very well” she texted him back: “Thank you very much I do try”

She added: “No doubt clients can comment on the way I look, but I don’t tend to make too much of it.”

Asked about the reply she sent back to the 45 year old married doctor, she told the court:”That’s the standard response I would give to an uncomfortable comment.”

Giving evidence Mrs Saunders told the court how in 2012 she met the McGraths when she was a mortgage and protection advisor with Lloyd’s Banking and they came to see her regarding a mortgage application.

She said she dealt with them again in 2015 in respect of a second mortgage application.

In court Miss Sonal Dashani for Anne McGrath asked her “Would you say he came across as very charming, confident and self-assured in what he was saying?”

Mrs Saunders replied “Yes”

She agreed that as she helped Mr McGrath with his mortgage application, a “rapport built up” up between them so that they could joke in text messages about Take That tickets and dinner dates.

At the start of the trial last week the jury heard how Dr McGrath claimed to police in 2015 that a cottage he was renting on a country house estate in Bedfordshire had been burgled so that he could make a fraudulent £180,000 insurance claim, a jury heard this week.

The prosecution claim Dr McGrath and his GP wife Anne-Louise were allegedly up to their necks in debt and he hoped that by lying about a burglary would raise the funds needed to renovate their new £1.1 million pound home.

The Irish surgeon claimed that valuable antiques, jewellery and a 19th century marble fireplace had been taken, but the police became suspicious because of an absence of clues at The Garden Bothy, an Edward pain five bedroomed cottage on the Luton Hoo estate.

Detectives were then said to have discovered that they had run up massive debts and had made false claims on mortgage applications.

Before the reported burglary on April 15 2015 the prosecution say that Mr McGrath was trying to raise funds by selling off antiques. He allegedly told the owner of one antique business that he was trying to raise money to build a child refuge in Syria.

But trial prosecutor Charlene Sumnall told the jury:  “This was all a lie. Anthony McGrath was trying to raise as much money as possible in early 2015, not for the children of Syria, but to alleviate the significant financial pressure facing him and his wife. ”

Despite the money troubles, Anthony McGrath spent £50,000 on a Maserati, later telling the police he was “not particularly good with money.”

Ms Sumnall said:  “In a nutshell, this case is about greed.

“These offences were motivated by the defendants’ desperate need for money.  They were in dire financial straits, and resorted to dishonest and fraudulent means to alleviate their pressing financial problems.”

She alleged there were three episodes of fraudulent conduct committed by the husband and wife, who been married in 2009.

Both worked in the medical profession she said adding that he is an orthopaedic surgeon and she is a self-employed GP.  She also looked after their four children and her elderly mother.

They had lived in Aberdeen and Southampton before he went to work at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, north west London.

The prosecutor said:  “First the defendants engaged in three instances of mortgage fraud between 2012 and 2015. The crown’s case is that the defendants submitted three mortgage applications to Lloyds Bank that were supported by forged documentation regarding their employment and earning potential.

“Second, that Anthony McGrath made a false report of burglary to the police as the foundation for a bogus insurance claim. He pretended that his home had been broken into on 15 April 2015 and that a large quantity of expensive antiques and other property had been stolen. He did this in order to claim a pay-out of thousands of pounds from his insurer.

“Third, that Anne-Louise McGrath dishonestly failed to inform the defendants’ insurer that she was in possession of a pair of sapphire diamond earrings and a sapphire diamond ring that her husband had reported as stolen following the alleged burglary.

“Furthermore, Anne-Louise McGrath provided the earrings and ring to an auctioneer in order for them to be sold, as a result of which she received thousands of pounds from the sale of the earrings. She did this despite knowing that the items were the subject of an insurance claim and a criminal investigation.”

The jury were told that at around the time of the supposed break-in at the cottage, the surgeon had driven a hired van to his family’s large Georgian country home in Ireland.

When Bedfordshire police and The Garda went to Somerville House in Co Meath in Ireland on 26 November 2015 they are said to have found the red 19th century fireplace that had been reported stolen in the burglary.

45-year-old McGrath, an orthopaedic trauma surgeon and married father of four, denies four charges of fraud and one of perverting the course of public justice.

Anne-Louise, 44, denies five charges of fraud and one of perverting the course of public justice.

The jury of 9 men and 3 women were told that the couple were renting a cottage called the Garden Bothy on the Luton Hoo estate in Beds for £2,400 a month while renovation work was being carried out on the home their £1.1 million home in Clarence Road, St Albans, Herts.

To raise funds, it is alleged that lies and outright forgeries were made on mortgage applications.  £800,000 and then £135,000 was raised on the 7-bed Clarence Road address and a further £85,000 buy-to-let mortgage was obtained on a previously un-mortgaged property in Somerton Close, Belfast. This had been the home of Anne-Louise McGrath’s mother.

Ms Sumnall went on to say:  “We are all brought up to believe what doctors tell us, but they hid behind the veneer of their status.”

She said Mr McGrath earned £84,074.40 in the year 2012 to 2013 – “a nice sum, but not enough for this family.”  Anne-Louise was not consistently working and reported earning £0 from self-employment in that period.

The prosecutor went on:  “The reason Mr and Mrs McGrath embarked on this course of conduct was that they were motivated by their desperate need for money.  At times they were in dire financial straits. Their overdraft was in tens of thousands of pounds, there was no reigning in on spending and the refurbishing of Clarence Road was spiralling out of control. They continued spending on antiques, cars, school fees and alike.

“Despite their debt, he decided to buy a £50,000 Maserati – when asked about it by police he said he was not very good with money – something of an understatement.”

Case proceeding

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