A man who forged his then wife’s signature to re-mortgage their jointly owned house for £125,000 in a “cynical abuse of trust” to pay of a huge gambling debt, escaped going to jail on Wednesday.
To commit the fraud Kenneth McKittrick (46), of Milltown View in Londonderry’s Tullyally area, lied to a loan company that his partner no longer lived at the then family home at Masteragwee Road near Coleraine.
Antrim Crown Court was told that earlier this year he pleaded guilty to three charges of fraud by false representation, forgery and obtaining a money transfer by deception on dates in 2006 an 2007.
The couple were married in 1995 and in 1999 took out a £52,000 mortgage on their home with an end date of 2019 but the fraud came to light in 2011 when a court re-possession letter arrived and his wife then discovered he had a “severe gambling addiction” and had taken out a loan against the increased value of the house.
As the judge said he was suspending a two year jail term suspended for three years his now ex-wife broke down in tears inside the courtroom.
Last week, Crown prosecutor Tessa Kitson told the court that when initially asked to reveal how much the loan was for, McKittrick threatened to harm himself.
Then in 2012 when a Child Support letter revealed “previous indiscretions” the couple split up.
McKittrick’s then ex-partner discovered that in 2006 her name had been taken from the property deeds and her signature had been forged to give the impression she had signed over her interest to the defendant.
McKittrick said he needed the money for gambling.
The court was told Mrs McKittrick is still in the family home and is in negotiations with the building society.
Ms Kitson said there was planning involved in the case which was a “cynical abuse of trust” and she said the money has not been re-paid by the defendant, nor is it likely to be as he is not working.
Also last week, defence barrister Alan Stewart said his client had alcohol and gambling addictions and that after running up “significant” gambling debts re-mortgaged the house to clear them off and was not living a “lavish lifestyle” with the cash.
He said McKittrick had intended to re-pay the money and did for a few years up until 2009 when his life went into “meltdown” after he lost his job and he attempted suicide.
In 2012 Mr Stewart said the arrival of a Child Support letter brought “previous indiscretions” to light and the marriage broke down.
Mr Stewart said it is hoped an agreement can be reached with the mortgage company.
He said the defendant was “tearful” during police interviews and expressed contrition and wished he could “turn the clock back”.
Sentencing McKittrick on Wednesday, Judge Paul Ramsey QC said the defendant’s marriage had broken down and his daughter no longer wished to see him and he lost his lorry driver job.
He added that the defendant’s health is breaking down and his reputation is now “in tatters”.
However, he said McKittrick’s wife was the victim of a “cynical abuse of trust” and still lives in the family home and is currently in negotiations with the building society.
The judge said he had to take into account McKittrick’s full admissions, a first time guilty plea, his minor record and his “remorse and sorrow” after he told a psychiatrist he knew what he did was “hateful” and wished it had never happened.
He noted the defendant had physical difficulties and had bowel surgery in the summer and he said that was a key factor in suspending the jail term.
McKittrick tried to shield his face as he left court and did not wish to comment about the case. Mrs McKittrick also declined to comment.