A Cork man who defrauded five people to a total of almost €210,000 through his role as a financial adviser has had an appeal against his five-year prison sentence dismissed.
At the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice John Edwards said Mervyn Tanner, 47, of Buttery Court, Market Square, Mallow, Co Cork, had committed “a disgraceful breach of trust” by defrauding five people on dates between November 2010 and March 2016 at various locations in Cork, with a total loss to the five injured parties of €209,900.
Tanner was given a five-year sentence at Cork Circuit Court on September 2, 2021, after pleading guilty to seven sample charges.
“There was a very significant relationship of trust that was sundered again and again by the appellant.
Some of the injured parties were very vulnerable, with one on the rebound from a bereavement,” said Mr Justice Edwards.
He said Tanner had committed premeditated fraud and had continued to commit fresh wrongdoing long after he knew he had no funds available to him.
“The sentencing judge was completely within his rights to set the headline sentence at seven years,” he said, with the sentence reduced to five years after mitigation.
“The breach of trust is more egregious when it is being done by a professional adviser.”
The court heard that one woman who inherited money after the death of her brother was defrauded to a sum of €120,000 after Tanner convinced her to invest the money instead of paying off her mortgage. Another injured party was defrauded of €41,700, and another was at a loss of €42,000. One woman was at a loss of €6,200, which consisted of €5,000 that she invested and €1,200 of a loan. Tanner also forged documents purporting to show that he had funds to buy a house in Glanmire, but there was no financial loss associated with this offence.
Counsel for Tanner, Séamus Clarke, said that, in the original sentencing, Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin had erred in setting the headline sentence at seven years before considering mitigation, which Mr Clarke described as being out of kilter with the vast majority of such cases. He said Tanner had pleaded guilty in the case, had no previous convictions, had co-operated with the investigation, and had made admissions.
Mr Justice Edwards said the number of injured parties and the vulnerability of some of them were aggravating factors, with one of the injured parties in a vulnerable state after her brother’s death. He said as Tanner was acting in a professional capacity, the relationship of trust that was breached was also an aggravating factor.
“It was open to the judge to impose consecutive sentences or part concurrent and part consecutive sentences, and had he done that it might have ended up even higher,” said Mr Justice Edwards.
“This was a financial adviser — where are we going if financial advisers get up to that sort of thing?”
Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy said a serious feature of the case was Tanner had forged a letter with a stamp on it saying it had come from the court office.
Mr Clarke said the pertinent question was the scale of the offending, with money taken from people who had a large amount of it. He accepted that the woman whose brother had died could be said to have been vulnerable. He said there was no real evidence that Tanner had enjoyed a lavish lifestyle from his offending. Mr Justice Edwards said this was not a mitigating factor so much as the absence of an aggravating one.
Mr Justice Edwards noted that Tanner had his licence to act as a mortgage provider revoked in 2014 and he continued to act as a financial adviser.
“The financial regulator saw fit to revoke his licence, and for him to continue forging documents and committing thefts speaks of a very high culpability,” said Mr Justice Edwards.
Brendan Kelly, counsel for the DPP, said that not only was Tanner a financial adviser but he also knew the injured parties, which made this breach of trust worse.
In his judgement, Mr Justice Edwards said that Tanner's culpability in the case was very significant. Accordingly, he dismissed the appeal.