Man sentenced for deceit

Fred Allen McLaughlin was sentenced to three years imprisonment last week for obtaining property by deception – pretending that he was employed by Dart Realty or Dart Management.

McLaughlin, 43, pleaded guilty to two charges, one involving $2,500 and the other $450.

In passing sentence, Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale took into account his previous convictions for offences for dishonesty.

Crown Counsel Tanya Lobban provided details.

Around 30 November – 1 December 2007, McLaughlin called a furniture store owner, purporting to be an employee of the Dart Foundation that was interested in purchasing $1 million worth of furniture from the store.

On Monday, 3 December, he met the owner, presenting himself as being authorised to make representation on behalf of Dart Realty, Camana Bay.

McLaughlin was able to induce the owner to lend him $2,500, which he said he needed to help a friend who was in hospital in Miami. The owner gave him $2,000 in cash and a cheque for $500, and then drove him to the bank to cash the cheque. McLaughlin promised to repay him out of his commission from the arrangement.

McLaughlin purportedly made a phone call to his office at Dart to have a cheque made out for the store owner in the sum of $500,000, to be delivered at 1pm that day. He also left a phone number, saying he could be contacted if need be.

After 1pm arrived but the cheque did not, the store owner tried to call McLaughlin. He got no answer.

He then contacted the Dart Foundation and was told they did not have any Fred McLaughlin in their employ. The man realised he had been conned and contacted police.

McLaughlin was spoken to by police and bailed.

On Monday, 10 December, he went to a car wash business and purported to be fleet manager for Dart Management. He said he wanted to set up a business agreement to get 74 vehicles cleaned and washed.

Two days later he returned to work out arrangements for the first 21 vehicles. He told the manager he needed $450 urgently to assist his wife; he said he would pay it back on Friday the 14th. He was given the money.

On Friday, no cars arrived to be cleaned. No cars arrived on Saturday or Monday either. On Tuesday, the 18th, the car wash manager contacted Dart Management and inquired about the arrangement. He was told Fred McLaughlin was not their employee.

Dart then contacted police and asked for an investigation.

Defence Attorney John Furniss noted that McLaughlin had been in custody since shortly after the last incident. At his first court appearance he said he had obtained the money because he was under pressure to pay for drugs he had purchased but still owed for. He then spent money to obtain more drugs.

Mr. Furniss expressed surprise that in both cases the businessmen had handed money over on the basis of what McLaughlin told them. Neither made a phone call until afterwards.

There was discussion of McLaughlin’s application to be considered for the Drug Rehabilitation Court. That court’s team had considered him as not suitable.

The magistrate explained that McLaughlin’s drug use did not explain his behaviour. His record showed a history of dishonest behaviour before there was any indication of drug use. ‘He offends because this is how he maintains himself.’ She called it his lifestyle choice.

Past sentences had been minimal and had not deterred him, she observed.

The sentences were three years on each, but running concurrently. McLaughlin had been placed on probation for 18 months in November 2007 after pleading guilty to consumption of cocaine. He had told the magistrate then he had no more problem with it.

For this offence, probation was revoked and a six-moth sentence imposed, consecutive to the three years.

McLaughlin gave immediate notice of appeal.